An important part of people's lives is spent at work. No matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity may be, all employees deserve a safe and supportive workplace.
This can be particularly challenging for LGBTQ employees. In some cases, they may be discriminated against, harassed, or subjected to microaggressions. It is also possible for them to feel excluded or isolated.
The LGBTQ+ Experience and Mental Health at Work
"The LGBTQ+ community is endlessly diverse and intersectional in nature, but many members share a unifying experience of being othered, particularly in workplace settings," adds Bernie Wong in an HBR article. Many people feel pressured to constantly monitor how they present gender and sexuality at work. Some people choose to disclose, while others are forced to do so. Other microaggressions include being misgendered, being asked about clothing uninvitedly, and being mislabeled.
Additionally, LGBTQ+ workers face harassment and outright discrimination, with research showing that they make 22% less than non-LGBTQ+ workers. "And when it comes to actually seeking mental health care, many navigate added barriers — from finding a therapist who is LGBTQ+, or who understands LGBTQ+ health needs, or who simply accepts and affirms their identity," says Wong.
Overall, it is already difficult to navigate them alone. "But the lack of support, solutions, and prevention efforts by employers compounds their impact not only on LGBTQ+ workers’ mental health, but also their psychological safety, relationships with colleagues, their sense of inclusion and belonging in their teams, and engagement at work."
According to Mind Share Partners’ 2021 Mental Health at Work Report, conducted in partnership with Qualtrics and ServiceNow, LGBTQ+ workers were more likely to experience mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, and burnout, as well as report negative mental health effects related to work or work environments. In addition, more than twice as many LGBTQ+ workers reported voluntarily leaving a current or previous position due to mental health issues.
There is more to LGBTQ+ workplace mental health than hardship, however. "In our same study, LGBTQ+ workers were more likely to feel comfortable talking about their mental health at work, more likely to have talked about their mental health to someone at work in the past month, and more likely to see mental health as a diversity, equity, and inclusion issue, compared to non-LGBTQ+ workers," Wong states. "Despite the challenges they face, LGBTQ+ workers are well positioned to lead their workplaces as champions for mental health — not only for the LGBTQ+ community but for the organization overall."
How to Support LGBTQ Employees at Work
As an employer, you can play a pivotal role in creating a workplace that supports LGBTQ employees. To help you, here are some tips:
Discrimination must be clearly prohibited.
Your company should have a clear policy against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. In addition to being communicated to all employees, this policy needs to be consistently enforced.
Provide training on LGBTQ issues.
In this training, employees will learn how to support LGBT colleagues and how to understand the different aspects of their identities. Moreover, it should cover the company's discrimination policy and how to report discrimination incidents.
Use inclusive language.
Using respectful language means calling someone "partner" instead of "husband" or "wife." You should also avoid language that implies gender, such as "manpower" or "ladylike."
Ensure that your benefits are inclusive.
Incorporate same-sex partner benefits into your employee benefits package to cater to LGBTQ employees, such as offering same-sex partner benefits. As a result, you demonstrate your commitment to providing equal benefits to all employees, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Celebrate LGBTQ identities.
This can include hosting events like Pride Month celebrations or offering resources on LGBTQ issues. Additionally, employees with LGBTQ identities should be aware of different cultural and religious observances.
Be an ally.
Whenever you witness discrimination or harassment, speak up. Also, it means showing your support for LGBTQ employees. Speaking out against discrimination, using inclusive language, and attending LGBTQ events are ways to do this.
Create an LGBTQ employee resource group (ERG).
As part of an ERG, LGBTQ employees can advocate for themselves and connect with each other.
Update your employee handbook to include language about LGBTQ discrimination and harassment.
This will clarify the policy of not tolerating discrimination or harassment.
Provide resources for LGBTQ employees.
By providing support for LGBTQ employees through a list of local LGBTQ organizations or a hotline for reporting discrimination you demonstrate your commitment.
Listen to LGBTQ employees' concerns and take action to address them.
By doing this, you demonstrate your commitment to creating a safe, respectful workplace for all employees.
It is possible to create an environment where LGBTQ employees feel valued, safe, and supported if you follow these tips.
Besides the above, you can support LGBTQ employees in the following ways:
Whenever possible, use the pronouns they prefer.
If they would like to be addressed in a particular way, ask them.
Respect their relationships.
It's important not to make assumptions about their gender identity or sexual orientation.
When you witness harassment or discrimination, take action.
You should notify the Human Resources department of your company if you find evidence of discrimination.
Employers can make their workplaces more supportive and inclusive for LGBTQ employees by following these tips. Having LGBTQ employees on board will not only benefit them but also the company as a whole.
For more information on how to support LGBTQ employees, you may find the following resources helpful:
The Human Rights Campaign: https://www.hrc.org/
The National Center for Transgender Equality: https://transequality.org/
Out & Equal: https://outandequal.org/
The Trevor Project: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/