The decision by Halifax’s social media team to get involved in Twitter spats with social media warriors on the use of pronouns puts front-line branch staff in the firing line.

Members will be aware that last week Halifax tweeted a picture of a name tag with the pronouns she/her/hers and the caption: “Pronouns matter”. Halifax said that it wanted to “open the conversation around gender identity”. That’s fine but many Halifax customers are quite happy not to have that conversation.

Instead of telling critics that the use of pronoun badges was optional for members of staff some bright spark decided to tell customers that if they didn’t like the bank’s policy, they could close their accounts. That added fuel to the fire. What was a storm in a teacup soon became a mainstream media story with many criticising the Halifax response. If staff want to use such badges, then we’ll support them but equally there are many staff who don’t want to get involved in the group’s “conversation around gender identity”. Interestingly, none of the current GEC use pronouns on their biographical profiles. Although, when we looked at the page late last week, Sharon Doherty, the new Group Chief People and Places Officer used her chosen pronouns but those seems to have disappeared over the weekend.

Organisations enter the culture wars at their peril. It’s a no-win situation. On the one hand they are accused of virtue signalling and on the other they are accused of hypocrisy. Members will recall Nike’s Dream Team campaign a few years ago – involving the American football player Colin Kaepernick – the first NFL player to ‘take the knee’ – which ended with the slogan: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”. It turned out that at the same time that campaign was being devised, Nike was lobbying to dilute the US government’s measures targeting forced labour in Xinjiang, the region of China that produces 20% of the world’s cotton. Nike was lambasted for its hypocrisy.

Branch staff have enough to do dealing with customers without having to patch self-inflicted wounds like this.

Members with any questions should contact the Union’s Advice Team on 01234 262868 (choose Option 1).

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