Evidence-based tips for supporting LGBTQ employees during the other 11 months of the year (and during Pride Month, too)
Evidence-based tips for supporting LGBTQ employees
With Pride Month (June) becoming a more international event every year, many organisations want to show their support for the LGBTQ community and employees. LinkedIn is taken over by an avalanche of rainbow-coloured logos these days – but there is more to do if we want to achieve inclusion in the workplace of our LGBTQ colleagues and employees. What can organisations do to build inclusion and make work better for everyone?
At Balance HR, we take an evidence-based approach to HR, so we looked at what scientific evidence tells us about the topic. What works in building an inclusive climate where LGBTQ people thrive?
Unfortunately, the topic of LGBTQ inclusion in the workplace has not been researched since long. Therefore, there aren’t yet a lot of answers coming from trustworthy and solid scientific research. But we do have some insights – especially coming from a meta-analysis of 27 studies done in the USA, which looked at what works in building a positive climate at work for LGBTQ employees.
In evidence-based HR we begin with framing the problem into an answerable question. So, let's start with the following question.
How can we build a supportive environment for LGBTQ employees, during the other 11 months of the year (and during Pride Month, too)?
Formal policies work, but they’re not the whole story
The first step organisations can take is to adopt formal LGBTQ-supportive policies and practices. Examples are:
- Including sexual orientation, gender identity, and LGBTQ status in the non-discrimination policy
- Providing benefits to cover same-sex partners
- Providing transgender-inclusive medical benefits
- Actively inviting same-sex partners to company-wide events
- Including support for LGBTQ causes in the company’s social impact programs.
But do they work? Research indicates that in organisations with such policies, LGBTQ employees have higher job satisfaction and organisational commitment, while also perceiving less discrimination. Furthermore, employees are more likely to disclose their LGBTQ identity.
Adopting such supportive policies shows what kind of behaviours are acceptable and expected in an organisation. However, this is just the first step: a LGBTQ-supportive climate and supportive relationships are more important than simply adopting policies.
The next step to an inclusive workplace: walk the talk
Simply having policies in place doesn’t always mean that’s what happens in reality: we need to look at how employees’ experience truly is like. What happens when an LGBTQ colleague is mistreated? Do people respond? How are LGBTQ people perceiving their organisation’s support towards them? The answers to these questions make up what researchers call the “organisational climate” – in this case, specific to LGBTQ diversity.
The organisational climate has a much stronger positive association with LGBTQ employees’ job satisfaction, organisational commitment, and likelihood to disclose their identity. It also makes them less likely to experience anxiety, depression, and emotional exhaustion, as well as less discrimination.
You can make a difference too
However, sometimes it’s not the whole organisation that makes the difference – it’s individual relationships we have with each other at work. In particular, supportive relationships are beneficial – where one listens, shows care and empathy, but also helps concretely (for example, by helping to report incidents, or confronting colleagues who discriminate).
LGBTQ employees who have such relationships are more likely to experience job satisfaction and commitment, and to disclose their identity at work. At the same time, they are less likely to experience anxiety, depression, or emotional exhaustion. So, regardless of what your workplace is like, you can choose to be a supportive colleague and make a difference.
Webster, J. R., Adams, G. A., Maranto, C. L., Sawyer, K., & Thoroughgood, C. (2018). Workplace contextual supports for LGBT employees: A review, meta‐analysis, and agenda for future research. Human Resource Management, 57 (1), 193-210.
Button, S. B. (2001). Organizational efforts to affirm sexual diversity: A cross-level examination. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86 (1), 17.
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