As Pride month approaches Alasdair James Scott provides three key ways to support LGBTQ+ colleagues in the workplace.
Companies that embrace LGBTQ+ policies outperform their competitors. Cultures that embrace the diversity that the LGBTQ+ community represents help draw top talent and foster innovation, and people perform significantly better when they can be themselves at work. Yet more than a third of LGBTQ+ staff still choose not to disclose their sexual orientation at work for fear of discrimination.
As this year’s Pride month approaches, here are three key ways in which you can support LGBTQ+ colleagues in the workplace:
Better anticipate the LGBTQ+ community
Start by ensuring that your provisions for employees are built through an LGBTQ+ lens and actively promoted from day one.
When it comes to parental leave, for example, not all parents will be heterosexual, some fathers of any sexual orientation are keen to be primary caregivers and people of all persuasions may prefer to adopt. The various scenarios should be anticipated, and a policy/procedure built and communicated.
More than a third of LGBTQ+ staff still choose not to disclose their sexual orientation at work for fear of discrimination
Engage and measure the disengaged
Organisations need to be braver in their journey towards a more accepting and inclusive culture. This can start with keeping employees accountable for inclusive behaviour by aligning it to the things that matter – salary, bonus and promotions. To be engaged and supportive of inclusion, which includes LGBTQ+ colleagues, means to be promoted and successful at work when it’s seen as an essential hallmark of performance.
Require active allies
Allies are proactive in their support and defence of individuals in an oppressed group. To be a true ally means taking on the struggle of an oppressed group as your own, carrying the weight felt by those in a marginalised group and never putting it down.
Allyship means valuing people with experiences different from your own, learning about privileges and natural prejudices, and working to make the workplace more equitable in spite of them.
Providing support for LQBTQ+ colleagues also means avoiding some of the most common pitfalls along the way:
- Pitfall 1: Tick boxing. Pride month is a great way to raise the profile of the LGBTQ+ community – but don’t let your organisation’s commitment stop there. Without explicit behavioural expectations and mechanisms to keep that behaviour accountable, any effort to include the LGBTQ+ community feels like one very big and rainbow-clad tick box.
- Pitfall 2: Lazy language. A number of organisations have historically referred to employees coming out as something to ‘handle’ or an incident that can be ‘managed’. But coming out should not be an exercise in minimising risk – it requires trust, understanding and empathy. You don’t handle people being straight – but for some reason it seems to be legitimate to talk about LGBTQ+ identity as something that needs to be managed. This is lazy and tone deaf, and the optics suggest that those with LGBTQ+ identity are just a problem that needs to be solved.
- Pitfall 3: Avoiding the conversation. Too often employees stick their heads in the sand when it comes to perceived difficult issues or talking about identities they feel they have no right to talk about. It can feel overwhelming to enter into a conversation that you have little grounding in – but it’s OK to start small. Be vulnerable and admit that you don’t know everything, learn from those who know more than you, do your homework and educate yourself on key issues so that the topic feels less daunting.
About the author
Alasdair James Scott is a senior consultant at worldwide diversity and inclusion training consultancy PDT Global