As good employers, employees or business owners, we all need to try and be more sensitive to people who are not like we are. In this era of LGBTQ rights, we must understand how to be good coworkers and associates of this community.
Many people in the LGBTQ community do not feel comfortable coming out in the workplace because they fear discrimination. But, when not coming out, these same employees may feel isolated and depressed. About 20 states and Washington, DC have employment non-discrimination laws that cover the topic of sexual orientation and gender identity.
While most people think coming out at work is no big deal, this is huge to the people who are coming out. Here are good ways to be supportive when an LGBTQ employee comes out at your workplace:
- As with every employee, be respectful and understanding. Coming out can a difficult experience for anyone. Avoid making assumptions or judgments about their sexual orientation or gender identity. If you have questions, ask them in a respectful way.
- Acknowledge their situation. Thank the employee for being comfortable enough to share that information with you.
- Treat them the same way you always have. Coming out does not change the person. Continue treating them with respect and professionalism as you always should.
- Review workplace forms to make sure they have a space for options other than male and female.
- When possible, have gender-neutral bathrooms available.
- Be an ally to the individual. If you hear other employees making homophobic or transphobic comments or inappropriate jokes, let them know that behavior is unacceptable. According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), 53% of LGBTQ employees claim to hear such comments and jokes in the workplace. You may offer to help the employee file a complaint with HR if they feel they’ve been singled out and discriminated against.
- Educate yourself about LGBTQ. The more you know about their community, the better equipped you will be to support the people who are a part of it. There are resources available to help you, such as the HRC’s website and the GLAAD Media Reference Guide.
- Show your support for LGBTQ employees. This could mean hanging a rainbow flag in your office or just being open and welcoming to all employees. It should not matter about an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity, just that they do a good job.
- Want to do more? Become an advocate for LGBTQ rights. Speak out against discrimination, support LGBTQ-friendly legislation or donate to LGBTQ organizations.
Follow these tips to help create a supportive workplace for LGBTQ employees. By taking these steps, you can help create a workplace where all employees feel safe, respected and valued members of the business.