Mythbuster: The LGBT+ Experience in the Workplace

By Kathryn Adderley
03 Jun 2019

June is Pride Month, which means it’s the perfect chance to address some of the myths surrounding LGBTIQ+ people in the workplace.

Here’s a selection:

You only have to come out at work once

In one role, in one workplace, an employee may have to come out on multiple occasions.

They may come out to their boss or immediate manager at the start of their new role, and then later to co-workers, other managers of other departments they’ll have to work with, other workers from other departments they’ll have to work with, then clients they’ll be working with, and so on.

When faced with this prospect, some individuals may choose to hide their true identity. Sometimes they may do this with certain groups, or sometimes from everyone, it really depends on individual experience.

There is a very real fear that being ‘out’ will jeopardise relationships with colleagues, managers and clients; not to mention the potential negative impact on career prospects.

This experience varies from role to role, as well as industry to industry.

Client-facing roles in particular can be stressful. Some LGBT+ individuals have reported, as recent as last year, that they felt genuinely unsafe dealing with certain customers.

A report by the Harvard Business Review found multiple first-person examples of this, including one from an organisation that had a large client on retainer who told them “if you publicly support marriage equality, you will lose our business.”

Why does all this matter?

Because- although it is possible for some individuals to hide their true LGBT+ identity (for some it isn’t), doing so can be a huge cause of stress for the employee. They’ll be more likely to avoid discrimination and harassment, but will ultimately feel dissatisfied and disengaged at work. This can be particularly tough for trans employees who are misgendered by co-workers and managers.

The solution is not to try and ‘out’ the employee, but to train your managers and senior staff to be open and supportive. Review and adjust your policies to reflect the inclusive nature of your business, and keep a look out for areas you can improve.

Being LGBT won’t affect your appeal as a candidate for a competitive role

While it’s true that LGBT+ representation and inclusion in the workplace has greatly increased in recent years, (just take a look at the Stonewall Top 100 Employers), there are still challenges and barriers to employment for many.

According to research by Crossland Employment Solicitors, 43% of bosses admitted that they were less likely to hire a transgender person.

The same research found that only 3% of UK employers have an equality procedure in place that encourages transgender individuals to apply for jobs at their company.

Of course, this might just be oversight, but its impact is felt all the same. Those who don’t suffer from oversight could struggle with their approach, it’s a sensitive subject after all.

Even employers who have equal recruitment policies struggle to breach the topic of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Considering they are both protected characteristics it can be quite nerve-wracking to start a discussion about this with a potential new recruit or fresh employee. But doing so can be reassuring.

Not just because it shows your organisation is welcoming of LGBT+ individuals, but because their inclusion in the organisation can improve the workplace. If you want to get analytical and utilise surveys that involve employee date give assurances on how that data will be used and stored. You must adhere to GDPR guidelines.

Key findings by Stonewall found that one in five (18%) LGBT+ people who were looking for work were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

What this tells us is that it is important to go one step further than your basic policies and procedures currently require. Having a policy that actively encourages LGBT+ recruitment could go a long way, and your organisation would be better for it.

If LGBT individuals are really struggling, they’d tell us

A recent study looking into the real reasons why employees leave their current roles threw up some interesting results.

It found that 36% of LGBT workers lied to their bosses about the real reason they left their job in an exit interview. This figure increases to 37% for ethnic minority individuals, and a huge 43% for those suffering from a long-term health condition.

The same survey also found that 45% of workers claimed their employers didn’t have an inclusion policy, with a further 58% saying their company didn’t prioritise diversity and inclusion.

You might see those statistics and think, “Okay, but are LGBT+ individuals actually facing any difficulties in the workplace?”

Well, according to the TUC, harassment of these individuals is widespread.

More than two-thirds of LGBT people in the UK have been sexually harassed at work, a massive 68% in fact.

The report, released this year on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, is believed to be the first study of its kind. The report revealed—in answer to our original question—that 66% of those who had experienced harassment did not report it.

Now, that’s a lot of statistics to take in, but hopefully it demonstrates the point that more needs to be done to tackle this issue, and you can make a start by updating your policies and procedures to reflect your commitment to fighting it.

About the Author

Kathryn Adderley

Kathryn Adderley is Croner's Senior Content Executive, responsible for producing, sourcing, and organising content across the website. She has a background of working agency side as a copywriter in the marketing industry and is also responsible for Croner's social media channels, so keep your eyes peeled for fresh content!