Chicks, babes: Words you shouldn’t use in the workplace

Long Lunch 04/10/2018
Photo: Getty.

The former chairman of Australia’s state broadcaster is in hot water for three words he is alleged to have used to refer to female staff members.

Ex-ABC chair Justin Milne has denied using the terms “missus”, “chicks” and “babes”.

The controversy has sparked debate across the ditch about which words you should never use in the workplace.

Australian employment law expert Will Barsby says there is an “evolution” of appropriate language in the workplace.

“This alleged conduct that was used by [former] ABC chairman really got a bit of a limelight because we’re seeing that transition of what’s appropriate language in our workplaces,” he told RadioLIVE.

“It really is adding to the list of what employers and employees should be conscious of how they behave in a workplace.”

Mr Barsby says as a general rule, any language where workers feel demeaned, bullied or harassed by such terms or conduct, it could constitute things like sexual harassment or bullying.

“At the very least it could be a breach of company policies and procedures.

“We’re really seeing a change in the landscape of what’s acceptable,” he says.

Words not to use in the office

  • Missus
    Mr Barsby says missus can be offensive — and is especially inappropriate at work.
  • Guys (mixed groups)
    Some might find it offensive, stick to “hi team” instead.
  • Chicks and babes
    These terms might be seen to be sexualising female colleagues, Mr Barsby said.
  • Honey
    Although a term often of endearment at home, in the workplace this isn’t an appropriate nickname for anyone.
  • Darling
    Similar to honey, darling should also be avoided as it could offend colleagues.
  • Girls or boys
    Mr Barsby says calling people in the office ‘girls’ or ‘boys’ can infer they are young and incapable.

Listen to the full interview with Will Barsby above.

The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.