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    June is Pride Month, making it a great time to ensure your workplace provides an inclusive and accepting environment for LGBTQ+ individuals.

    The goal of fostering an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace is to create an environment of mutual respect and acknowledgement of everyone’s humanity.

    We’ve discussed in previous posts that there are strategic benefits of diversity, equality and inclusion, including those centered around LGBTQ+ individuals, such as higher employee engagement, better hiring results and improved decision-making.

    Research shows that LGBTQ+ employees are at a greater risk than most for developing mental health conditions.  Because of societal stressors like acts of discrimination, verbal or even physical bullying and lack of social support received, LGBTQ+ individuals are twice as likely to experience mental health concerns, with 44% of LGBTQ+ adults experiencing mental illness compared to only 21% of all adults. And even more concerning, transgendered adults are actually 4 times more likely that non-transgendered individuals to experience a mental health condition.

    A great place to start is making sure you understand some basic terms and definitions. The National Institutes of Health Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion offers a helpful glossary of terms and definitions related to sexual and gender diversity.

    When talking about inclusivity, the term Microaggression is an important one – This term was coined in 1970 by Chester M. Prince to describe insults and dismissals he saw non-black Americans inflict on African Americans or other people of color. This term is also now used to describe insults and dismissals to LGBTQ+ individuals as well.

    More specifically, this could include:

    • Using heterosexist or transphobic terminology in conversation.
    • Assumptions of knowing and understanding the Universal LGBTQ+ experience by using generalizations.
    • Verbiage that is dehumanizing, or of a comic relief nature towards LGBTQ+ persons.
    • Assumption of pathology of abnormality by choices/actions of LGBTQ+ persons.
    • Even denial of our own individual biases towards others who are not heterosexual.

    Here are 12 suggestions for you as a Manager of an Inclusive Workplace

    1. Model respectful behavior toward everyone. All individuals in the workplace deserve to be treated with respect. This includes communicating in a collegial manner, valuing other perspectives, and working together even with those we may think are different from us.
    2. Do not tolerate gossip, jokes, disrespectful language, or bullying. Seemingly innocent jokes can create and give the impression of an unwelcoming environment for someone who may not be out as LGBTQ+ yet. Even if you are not making or laughing at the joke or using disrespectful language, not addressing it can still have the same impact because you’re conveying that it’s not of concern to you or that it doesn’t matter.
    3. Know and uphold your organization’s policies on anti-discrimination, respect, diversity, inclusion, and behavior. It is hoped that more companies will include anti-harassment policies that reference “sexual orientation” and “gender identity verbiage so that a clear message is sent that all will be respected at work and able to work free of any kind of harassment, and that no form of harassment or offensive conduct towards anyone- protected or not by law- will be tolerated. The good news is that as of 2018, according to Human Rights Campaign Organization, 97% of Fortune 100 and 83% of Fortune 500 companies have non-discrimination polices in place that include gender identity. This is a significant increase from 2010.
    4. Honor your colleagues’ identities. Honoring identities can manifest as using the preferred names and gender pronouns of a transgender co-worker.
    5. Treat everyone’s life, relationships, and belief systems as equally important.
    6. Don’t refer to LGBTQ+ people as having a “lifestyle.” We are all, simply, individuals.
    7. Don’t assume that LGBTQ+ people are different from heterosexual or cisgender people or have unusual lives.
    8. Use inclusive language. Examples can include using spouse or significant other instead of wife or husband. When asking about gender for demographic purposes, make sure there are inclusive options, not just male/female.
    9. Don’t make assumptions.
    10. Avoid stereotypes.
    11. Be clear about behavior that your employer expects of all its employees.
    12. Speak with your HR advisor if you need clarification or help dealing with harassment/bullying and supporting an inclusive environment for your team.

    Remember,  it’s your responsibility to be educated about providing an inclusive workplace that respects everyone. There are many resources to learn more on this topic, such as Out and Equal. Your EAP or SAP may also be a resource.  As a part of our assistance services, Espyr offers unlimited manager consultations as well as trainings for both managers and employees on this important topic.

    About the Author

    Adrienne Moberg, LCSW, CEAP is the Customer Experience Manager at Espyr. Adrienne has over 15 years of behavioral health experience including in EAP, domestic violence, community mental health and substance abuse treatment settings.

    About Espyr

    For over 30 years Espyr has provided innovative mental health solutions – solutions like our AI powered chatbot, TESS – to organizations operating under some of the most challenging conditions. Espyr’s portfolio of customized counseling, coaching and consulting solutions help people and organizations achieve their full potential by providing mental health support and driving positive behavioral change. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.


    American Psychological Association. LGBT Pride,  Preserving Progress.

    National Alliance on Mental Health. LGBTQ+I.

    National Institutes of Health Office of Equity Diversity and Inclusion. Sexual & Gender Minority. Terms and Definitions.


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