Microsoft 365 Profile Card Gains Support for Pronouns

Users Can Decide What Pronoun to Display in Profile Card

Announced in message center notification MC515531 (last updated 21 February 2023), the ability to enable pronouns in Microsoft 365 profile cards is available in the Microsoft 365 admin center. Once enabled, users can set Microsoft 365 pronouns using the preview version of Teams. The pronoun feature is covered by Microsoft 365 roadmap item 86352 (Teams) and 115511 (OWA).

Although I have been able to update pronouns in Teams, I haven’t yet been able to do so in either OWA or the latest build of the Monarch (“One Outlook”) client as all attempts to update my profile go to the old Delve app. No doubt the necessary software update will appear in OWA soon.

Employee Engagement

Microsoft’s documentation for the pronoun feature says that “the simple act of using the right pronouns for one another can help build trust and improve communication among colleagues.” Microsoft goes on to highlight that “Whether or not to share or publicly display pronouns is always up to an individual. Pronouns should never be assigned to one person by another person. It should be up to the person using them to decide when, where, and which pronouns are used – including whether to use this feature.”

In other words, organizations should do some thinking and employee engagement before they implement pronouns for profile cards.

Implementing Pronouns on the Microsoft 365 Profile Card

The first step is to enable pronouns for the organization. Go to Org settings in the Microsoft 365 admin center and select the Security & privacy tab. Pronouns is one of the listed options (Figure 1).

Pronouns setting in the Microsoft 365 admin center
Figure 1: Pronouns setting in the Microsoft 365 admin center

Microsoft says that it can take up to 7 hours before users can change their pronouns. In practice, expect the change to take a day before it is effective. If you disable pronouns, it will take the same length of time before pronouns disappear from view for all users. Microsoft 365 removes pronoun data if an organization disables the feature. Like most deletions in Microsoft 365, deletion is not immediate and if you reenable pronouns, previously set values will reappear.

After the software change is effective, users will see the option to update pronouns on their profile card. For instance, I clicked on my photo for a message posted to a Teams channel to reveal my profile card and see the option to add pronouns (Figure 2).

The option to update pronouns (in Teams)

Microsoft 365 pronouns
Figure 2: The option to update pronouns (in Teams)

Remember Microsoft’s point that pronouns are a personal decision for users? To enable freedom of choice, you can add whatever text you like for a pronoun. The profile card suggests the commonly-used values such as “She/Her,” but you can ignore these values and use whatever you choose.

Adding an individual version of a pronoun

Microsoft 365 pronoun
Figure 3: Adding an individual version of a pronoun

The important thing to remember is that pronouns are visible to all members of the organization. There’s no way to restrict pronoun display to a certain segment, such as members of a group. Guest members and external members of shared channels can’t see pronoun information on profile cards.

Building the Profile Card

Microsoft 365 stores user pronouns in a hidden folder in user Exchange Online mailboxes. Apps that support the profile card retrieve the information from the mailbox along with other properties (including custom attributes) to display the profile card (Figure 4).

How pronouns appear on the Microsoft 365 profile card
Figure 4: How pronouns appear on the Microsoft 365 profile card

A Change to Plan

Microsoft’s FAQ for pronouns contains some other useful information to consult before implementation. Displaying pronouns in the profile card is obviously something that an organization should think through before implementation. For example, some organizations also add pronouns to account display names, meaning that the information shows up in address books and other places where people see display names, like email headers, listings of documents in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business, and so on. Don’t rush to deploy just because someone (maybe a vocal proponent) thinks that pronouns are a good idea. Pause, consider, and then decide.

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