Earlier this month, thousands celebrated the Atlanta Pride Festival in conjunction with National Coming Out Day, a day for LGBTQ people to share their sexual orientation with friends and family. The festival is the largest of its kind in the Southeast, with the streets of Midtown Atlanta transformed into a colorful, electric celebration of diversity.
But when the weekend festivities fade, it’s back to the day to day for those in the LGBTQ community, including returning to their jobs. And although big strides have been made in the workplace, discrimination still exists, forcing some to keep their sexual orientation a secret.
How does your organization measure up when it comes to support of LGBTQ employees? Regardless of your answer, there are measures you can take to make sure all feel welcome.
Don’t promote stereotypes: Team building exercises and connections outside the office walls are both vital for a healthy culture, but be aware of common LGBTQ stereotypes when planning activities. For example, if a group is going to out together after work, invite everyone, even if you assume someone may not want to attend. Leaving people out can lead to hurt feelings and inadvertent discrimination.
Expand your networking circle: Reach out to co-workers or clients with different backgrounds from your own. Connecting to an LGBTQ colleague can benefit both your careers through shared knowledge. Plus, your support can make you an ally should they need one in the future.
Watch your words: Take time to encourage and commend your LGBTQ co-workers for their hard work and be aware of terms and phrases you may not even realize are offensive. In addition, be prepared to defend them against harmful comments from others. Diffusing offhand remarks early may alleviate a bigger issue later.
Join the cause: Consider joining with a colleague at work who is active in gaining rights for the LGBTQ community. Educate yourself and then ask questions. Your interest and desire to help will go a long way to making your workplace more comfortable for all.
Just because Atlanta Pride is behind us, doesn’t mean you missed out. Take the time to reach out to your LGBTQ co-workers today and let them know you support them no matter what.