Business, Communication, Email Writing

“You Guys”: Inappropriate for the Workplace?

Would you guys like to grab some lunch before the meeting?

Hey you guys, what happened to the coffee machine?

Did you guys see the report?

Okay, you guys, it’s time to get to work.

You guys are doing a great job with this project!

I can always count on you guys to get things done!

On the surface, these seem like ordinary sentences that are okay to use at work or school.

Let’s be clear. These sentences are grammatically correct. There also isn’t anything wrong with saying or writing “you guys” in a social context if your friends are okay with that term. However, you should think twice before using “you guys” in the workplace.

The problem with “you guys”

To some people, “you guys” is a friendly, gender neutral term that can be used to address any group of people. The problem is that not everyone shares this view.

In its singular form, a “guy” is always a man. The word is never used to refer to a lone woman. Thus, some women feel excluded when they hear “you guys”. This is especially true in workplaces or academic programs where the men heavily outnumber the women, or if “you guys” is coming from someone in a position of power, such as a supervisor or a professor. “You guys” suggests that the men are the ones who truly belong in that workplace or classroom. Meanwhile, the women are not acknowledged, or else they get the sense that their value is based on their ability to get along with the “guys”. If there are people in that space who identify as transgender or non-binary, “you guys” can be problematic on other levels.

Alternatives to “you guys”

Most of the people who use “you guys” don’t intend to make anyone feel uncomfortable. It’s just a habit. Unlike many other languages, English doesn’t have a second person plural. Therefore, it’s easy for a writer– and especially a speaker– to slip in a “guys” after “you” to emphasize that they are addressing a group of people rather than one individual.

One of our recent articles offers suggestions on how to greet two or more people in an email or letter. However, most of those options are meant for more formal communications, such as business letters. What if you are just sending out a casual email or a quick text? Or what if you are speaking instead of writing?

Sometimes, you can simply use “you” instead of “you guys”. Other alternatives to “you guys” include “you all”, “everyone”, “anyone”, “team”, “people”, and– in really informal situations– “peeps” (which is a play on “people”) or “y’all” (which is a contracted form of “you all”).

Here are some sentences that are similar to the ones that appear at the beginning of this article, except “you guys” has been replaced with one of the alternatives.

Would anyone like to grab some lunch before the meeting?

Hey peeps, what happened to the coffee machine?

Did everyone see the report?

Okay, people, it’s time to get to work.

You all are doing a great job with this project!

I can always count on this team to get things done!

Sentences like these are less likely to make anyone feel left out or awkward. They include everyone, not just “you guys”.

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