LGBTQ discrimination at work: a serious mistake

Pride celebration is here, and LGBTQ discrimination at work environment is still an unresolved issue for society as a whole. 

It’s likely you haven’t suffered it, or you might have done it without realizing it: although there are still large differences on a global level, LGBTQ discrimination at work is becoming less frequent and is seen as wrongdoing. 

However, even in countries that have public opinion and favorable legislation towards sexual and gender diversity, too many people face some type of discrimination or work exclusion due to this reason. 

Either as a result of a personal experience or observing the work environment at a company they belong to, a lot of people have reached an unconscious conclusion that they must keep their sexual or gender identity a secret, in the case of being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transexual. It is a given that people think it is not a valid topic to share naturally in their work environment, even though their heterosexual or cisgender colleagues can talk about their identity and orientation constantly, which doesn’t seem to be a big deal. 

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In other cases, the person takes a conscious and deliberate decision not to unveil their sexual orientation or gender identity as they are worried they will face LGBTQ discrimination at work. It is quite a clear defense mechanism in light of a threat: the function of this mechanism is to avoid (possible) conflict or harm, at the cost of losing spontaneity, authenticity, not making yourself known, and maintaining a distance from colleagues. 

lgbtq discrimination at work

Being the only gay, lesbian, or only trans person in your team or company (these are just three examples) can make you someone different from the rest. It is simply a fact, the statistics are what they are, but there is nothing wrong with being different. The problem occurs when being different prevents you from fitting in, makes you or others uncomfortable. In this case, when being different makes you discordant (meaning it puts you out of tune), there is a serious problem in your company’s corporate culture that will negatively affect your team’s cohesion. 

Sometimes the mismatch can be so subtle it goes unnoticed, and we make it something normal. Take a look at this sentence: “I’m not homophobic in my job, but I am in an environment that is a little adverse to me”. Have you ever heard this phrase before or had a similar thought? 

Alright, you don’t want to exaggerate. No one has openly insulted you or has discriminated against you for a promotion for the mere fact of being an LGBTQI+ person. However, an extreme case doesn’t need to occur to admit that something is not quite right. If you don’t directly suffer from homophobia at work but can’t openly prove you are not the heterosexual or cisgender person who everyone thinks… stop thinking: either you are a very paranoid person (distrustful) or you are suffering some sort of homophobia in your workplace but you still haven’t realized. 

By the way, maybe no one has openly insulted you or discriminated against you for a promotion because, as far as you think,  no one knows you are LGBTQ, not because your company’s culture is not homophobic. Have you never thought about that?

This doesn’t mean any hurtful comment you hear in your office is considered a crime against humanity. It means that LGBTQI+-phobia can have different levels that should be avoided so nobody feels uncomfortable, without going into extremisms but without letting go of those actions which are aggression and affect the emotional well-being of staff.

Fair practices against LGBTQ discrimination at work

You can find many reports that describe fair practices a company should contemplate treating gender and sexual diversity on the internet. At the end of the day, if a company only has four or five members, there might not be much diversity, but we would only need to increase the number a little for demographics to do their job. That’s why, if you think you are the only LGBTQI+ person in your workplace, chances are you are probably wrong.  

In any case, fair practices to avoid LGBTQ discrimination at work should be built-in corporate culture. Sexual diversity is one of many examples, if taken care of properly, employees will know the same applies to functional diversity, religion, and ethnicity. 

lgbtq discrimination at work

To make it easy for you, the following 5 suggestions include fair practices which you can implement by tomorrow to avoid LGBTQ discrimination at work:

1. Explicitly include respect for diversity– for example, gender and sexual diversity- in workplace culture, accompanied by an explicit accusation of discriminatory practices. 

For example: “In this company, we celebrate sexual diversity and value it. Everyone is welcome whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination is the opposite of our values”. 

2. Carry out training and activities with staff that raises awareness on sexual and gender diversity. 

For example: Set up a workshop that explains the differences between sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expressionism. What is the meaning of LGBTIQ+ Pride, or what is heteronormativity? 

3. Avoid the universal presumption of heterosexuality in both the internal and external communications of the company.  

For example: “Girls, tell your boyfriends to…” or “What man wouldn’t fall for a woman like you?”.  

4. Keep in mind the relative aspects of sexual and gender diversity when proposing expatriations to places that may be at risk for these people.  

For example: “You can opt for the role in Saudi Arabia, but there are other alternatives when going abroad, and we can consider them. Your safety comes first”. 

5. Explicitly include Pride celebration in the work calendar, if your company usually celebrates other key dates, Pride should be included as well. 

For example: mention Pride in your internal newsletter, alter the logo with the rainbow, or do what is usually done for other celebrations throughout the year. 

Respecting sexual and gender diversity is good for your company 

At times, the easy way out of not getting involved against LGBTQ discrimination at work is to simply do nothing. It is enough to trust that such things do not happen in our company or that avoiding discrimination on these grounds is not a corporate responsibility

Of course, this is the legitimate option. What you should ask yourself now if it is the most appropriate way to improve the work environment at your company and therefore improve productivity. The answer is simple: it isn’t.  

Whatever the size of your company- it´s a given LGBTIQ people are working there.  Of course, they are there to do their jobs, but you know what? They’ll do it much better if they perceive that they can be themselves as naturally as their heterosexual and cisgender colleagues. Doing something better means you do it with interest and cooperate with your peers, bringing new ideas to the table, making the task your own, protecting the company’s image, and recommending other talented people to join the team. This is why, from now onwards, your team should tackle LGBTQ discrimination at work

On the contrary, if they perceive a hostile work environment, where LGBTIQ-phobia and other forms of sexism are present, their interest in working more and better for that company will be at a minimum. At the slightest opportunity, their talent will flee to the company across the street if they feel that discrimination against LGBTIQ+ is addressed there. 

The importance of diversity and inclusion

A DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) strategy aims to effectively incorporate and manage these concepts within a company’s values and actions. It involves bringing together diverse individuals, treating them equally and respectfully, and fostering an inclusive environment. The objective is for the company to embrace diversity and ensure that it does not hinder its operations.

While maintaining a focus on productivity, it is important for companies to create a supportive and safe space where employees feel valued, regardless of their inherent characteristics. When employees experience a genuine sense of belonging, they are more likely to perform well and show dedication to the organization.

In addition to legal requirements that promote the acceptance of diversity in the corporate world, there is a growing recognition of the technical and economic advantages associated with implementing an effective strategy for managing diversity, equity, and inclusion in companies, commonly known as a DEI strategy. The following are three significant benefits worth highlighting:
– Increasing Adaptability
– Improving Corporate Reputation
– Enhancing Team Performance

Corporate responsibility in diversity protection 

If you don’t want your workers to flee the nest because they feel discriminated against, take initiative, turn it into strategic decisions, and take it in the right direction to improve the psychological well-being of your employees: this is the most powerful tool to improve their performance.    

Feeling stuck? Ifeel has created an emotional well-being package for companies through which human resources managers from your company can get advice on how to improve the work climate and promote mental health awareness in their staff.  Check out how this program can become part of your incentives program and help nurture a culture of mental wellbeing.

This is an active inclusion policy within the company. The contrary would be to assume everyone is alright, and avoid “meddling” in these “personal matters” with the excuse that they should be put aside from your professional life, which is not true: it isn’t a barrier between the personal and professional life. 

If you have any responsibility as a manager or in a human resources department, don’t doubt it: turn inclusion into a competitive advantage and promote productivity as well as talent attraction and retention. 

Let’s not be naive: Why would someone, who doesn’t feel there is any inclusivity in their company, do their best to thrive? What is their level of commitment, sense of belonging, and experience as an employee regarding the company? Talent isn’t LGBTIQ but LGBTQ people also have it. Only they prefer to use their talent where they are taken care of. 

Ultimately, protecting diversity and inclusion pays off. It promotes the emotional well-being of employees, improves the work environment, enhances employee commitment, and stimulates talent retention. Not doing this can be immoral or illegal, depending on the case, but it is considered an error that then has affected productivity. 

We hope you found this post on LGBTQ discrimination at work interesting. If you would like more information about ifeel’s employee well-being platform, simply request it, and we will contact your team as soon as possible.

Is LGBTQ discrimination at work common?

LGBTQ discrimination at work still occurs, but its prevalence varies across different industries and regions.

What are the potential consequences of LGBTQ discrimination at work?

The consequences of LGBTQ discrimination can include negative impacts on mental health, reduced job satisfaction, decreased productivity, and increased employee turnover.

How can employers address LGBTQ discrimination at work?

Employers can address LGBTQ discrimination by implementing and enforcing comprehensive non-discrimination policies, providing LGBTQ-inclusive diversity training, fostering an inclusive and respectful work culture, and offering support networks for LGBTQ employees.

Are there legal protections against LGBTQ discrimination at work?

Legal protections against LGBTQ discrimination exist in many countries. However, the extent of legal protection can vary, and it is important to be aware of the specific laws and regulations in your jurisdiction.

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