One of the main requirements to create a truly inclusive work environment is to have a safe space for all individuals to thrive. This can be created at both the individual and company level. This article focuses on what individuals can do to support their LGBTQ+ team members.
As we approach the end of June and the first half of this year, we also approach the end of Pride Month around the world. This is a good time to reflect on the inclusion initiatives and campaigns launched over the past month and the first half of the year in order to plan a more inclusive end of the year and continue the momentum gained during Pride Month. We caught up with Jean Illyria, Growth Manager at Google and one of our panellists from our Inclusive Leadership Forum, to talk more about what companies and individuals can to support their LGBTQ+ staff and colleagues.
- Educate yourself
There is now a wealth of information available online to better understand the issues that LGBTQ+ individuals face and to answer any questions you might have about the community, the movement or individuals’ specific needs. Be aware of these resources and refer to them when you need[i].
- Avoid asking invasive, personal questions
Be mindful of the fact that not all individuals may be comfortable speaking about their experiences or challenges. While you may be asking with good intentions, respect your team members’ privacy and don’t push them to share more than what they are ready to share.
- If you do have a question you would like to ask, contextualise
Remember that as a representative of the LGBTQ+ community, your colleague may have received several similar questions about themselves or other members of the community. If you would like to ask a question, ensure you have built a relationship with your colleague and contextualise your question by explaining how much you already know about the subject and why you are asking.
- Introduce yourself with your pronouns
When meeting a new team member, state your pronouns along with your name. This demonstrates that you will support your team member to reveal their gender identity and respect their pronouns.
- Use gender neutral terms
Where possible, use gender neutral terminology if you are not sure about a person’s gender identity or sexuality. For example, instead of inquiring about a person’s wife/husband, consider asking about their spouse/partner.
- Be sensitive
Often the language we use or the jokes we make may be offensive to certain minority groups. Be mindful of this and choose your language carefully.
It’s important to remember, that while you may mean no harm, individuals who are different from you have different experiences and may not respond to things in the same way that you might. Pay attention to your colleagues’ responses and comfort levels. Focus on building relationships and trust between yourself and your team members so you are all able to communicate openly.