Pride Month is a time for celebration, acceptance, reflection, breaking down barriers, and challenging bias. But did you know that more than 50 percent of LGBTQ+ Canadians don’t feel safe coming out at work. (1)
Whether this is rooted in fear of discrimination or losing their job—there’s clear evidence of a communication barrier.
So, to help employers break down these barriers, here are 4 ways you can improve communication with your staff and create an open, and inclusive environment where all staff feel safe to raise their concerns.
1. Stay up to date with current LGBTQ+ issues
Familiarizing yourself with the latest issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community can be a great way to make sure you’re leading from the front and improving your ability to communicate with staff effectively.
Embracing Pride all year round is continually learning more about what it means to be an LGBTQ+ ally in the workplace. As a busy business owner, it can be especially challenging to keep up with progress and make sure you’re up-to-date on the latest laws, rules, terminology, and news impacting the community.
Staying in tune with issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community will help you navigate the challenges and complexities of conversations about gender, sexuality, and sexual identity in the workplace.
An effective way you can do this is by subscribing to LGBTQ+ owned newsletters, podcasts and following LGBTQ+ influencers on social media like LinkedIn to stay informed. Because if you’re up to date on the issues, you’ll be better positioned to advise and support staff if they need it.
2. Support your staff through setbacks
The LGBTQ+ community has faced changes and some evident setbacks to progress. Plus, with rapid changes to the way we discuss diversity in the workplace—it can be a challenge to keep up! The fear employers and managers have of saying the wrong thing is understandable. But as the saying goes “fear is the enemy of progress”…
Too often, when it comes to key LGBTQ+ matters, sensitive topics like sexuality and gender are swept under the rug out of fear of saying the wrong thing.
Yes, it’s essential that you avoid causing offence to your staff through miscommunication. But avoiding communication altogether can also create a toxic work environment.
Without effective communication between employer and employee—work relationships can just as easily break down. Not only this but if your staff don’t feel safe enough to report an issue to you and it goes unreported, it could be equally as risky for you.
Not every employee will want to discuss these topics openly, but you can foster a culture of openness and inclusivity by starting an employee discussion forum or committee where employees can raise issues anonymously.
Conducting quarterly anonymous surveys about your culture and organization’s inclusivity can also address the potential for setbacks in your own company. Giving you insight into what you are doing right and what you could be doing better.
3. Use LGBTQ+ inclusive language and gender-neutral phrases
Another way to make staff feel safer is to make sure you’re avoiding gendered language. Making sure you move on from gender-bias job titles can go a long way in creating an inclusive environment. For example, changing “Salesman” to “Salesperson” or “Chairman” to “Chairperson.” Headmistress to “Headteacher”, and “Barmaid” to “Bartender.”
Encouraging a culture of trust and acceptance will also create better work relationships, boost morale and can even improve creative output. Simple things like including an option for selecting personal pronoun preferences in your HR onboarding process will help employees feel they can bring their authentic selves to work and keep staff engaged.
Similarly, offering equality and diversity training for members of staff is a great way to ensure your team is knowledgeable.
4. Be respectful and have a zero-tolerance discrimination policy
Above all else, it’s important to approach Pride and LGBTQ+ topics with the sensitivity and respect that it deserves.
Gender expression and sexual orientation are protected grounds under Human Rights legislation and you should have a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination and take any allegations very seriously. Because of this, it’s key to adopt a culture of trust.
Not only does any form of discrimination negatively impact your staff’s wellbeing. But comments, abuse and offensive conversations can quickly escalate, ruin your company’s reputation, and affect your employee retention rate.
It’s therefore in your best interest, and your responsibility, to create a fair and inclusive environment for your staff. So, if you’re unsure on how to manage a situation, always ask an HR expert or employment law specialist for the right guidance to support your team.