The word 'guys' should be avoided in the workplace, says new Australian diversity campaign

Office workers walking along a road in central Sydney on April 1, 2016.
Office workers walking along a road in central Sydney on April 1, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - The word "guys" should be avoided in the office, a new Australian campaign has said, arguing that such terms exclude minority groups.

The Diversity Council of Australia campaign launched on Wednesday (June 1) asks people to be open to changing phrases they have always thought as "normal".

One such word is "guys", which is commonly used in Australia to refer to a group including men and women.

A campaign video shows a group of women cringing at being referred to as "girls", and a worker in a wheelchair questioning the use of the expression "walk the talk".

Former chief of the Australian Army David Morrison, who is spearheading the #WordsAtWork campaign, said the use of inclusive language should be promoted.

"For some time I have been advocating that everyone in our society, from all genders, races, creeds, ages, disabilities, religions or sexual orientations, be given a chance to achieve their potential," he said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, in many workplaces, this isn't always the case. People use language to denigrate others and to take away their self-respect. Sometimes it happens unconsciously, but the effect is the same."

The new campaign was not about creating a "language police" but simply about encouraging people to use terms at work that were respectful, accurate, and relevant to everyone, he said.

"All the campaign is doing is saying, 'Look, it's a proven fact that more inclusive, more diverse workforces create real diversity of thinking and are more productive," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"And one of the ways... that you can engender that type of environment is (by) being careful about how you speak to other people, talking to them with respect and listening to their views with respect."

Mr Morrison admitted that "guys" was a word he had previously used.

"I have now removed that from my lexicon as best I can, I think it's important," he said.

But the idea of dropping the word "guys" provoked a storm on Twitter, with some questioning whether it would also lead to the loss of the traditional favourite "mate".

But others praised the idea of removing gender-specific language, coming up with alternatives to "guys" including "folks", "riff raff" and "mortals".