June 1, 2023 | 2:22pm | Matt Boone
Do you know that co-worker who always brightens your day with a positive attitude and witty jokes? The one who is always willing to lend an ear when you’re having a rough day? Chances are, that a co-worker may identify as LGBTQ. While society has come a long way in accepting people of all orientations and identities, discrimination and microaggressions are still common in many workplaces. As an ally, there are small but impactful ways you can show your LGBTQ colleagues that you support them. Read on for 5 easy tips to make your workplace a more inclusive environment for people of all backgrounds.
Ask Questions Respectfully
If you want to be an ally to your LGBTQ co-workers, start by educating yourself. Ask them respectful questions about their experiences and identities. Say something like:
"I'm interested in learning more about the LGBTQ community. Would you be open to answering some of my questions?"
"What are your preferred pronouns? I want to be respectful of how you identify."
Show interest in learning about coming out stories or experiences of discrimination. But only ask follow-up questions if they seem open to sharing more. Some questions may be too personal or traumatic to answer.
Once you've started a respectful dialog, look for other ways to show your support. For example:
Use the pronouns someone prefers and call people by the name they go by.
Speak out against homophobic, transphobic or discriminatory speech when you see it happen.
Put an ally sticker on your laptop or wear a rainbow pin to show you're a safe person to talk to.
Suggest pro-LGBTQ initiatives at work like diversity training or policy reviews.
Attend LGBTQ events to further educate yourself on issues facing the community.
The most important way to support your LGBTQ coworkers is by accepting them for who they are - and standing up for them when others do not. While it may feel uncomfortable at first, educating yourself and becoming an active ally can make a world of difference in creating an inclusive work environment. Every step, no matter how small, shows you value them.
Avoid stereotyping or making assumptions about your LGBTQ coworkers. Each person is unique, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Don't assume someone's pronouns. Politely ask which pronouns they prefer and use them. It's a sign of respect.
Don't ask invasive questions. Don't ask someone about their dating life, sex life, coming out story, or transition unless they openly share that information with you first.
Challenge stereotypical comments. If a coworker makes a stereotypical joke or comment about LGBTQ people, address it respectfully and explain why those kinds of comments are hurtful and inappropriate. Your LGBTQ colleagues will appreciate your support.
Educate yourself. Learn more about issues facing the LGBTQ community like discrimination, healthcare inequality, and workplace harassment. Understanding the challenges they face will make you a better ally.
Focus on the person, not their identity. Your coworkers are whole human beings. Don't define or value them only by their sexual orientation or gender identity. Appreciate them for who they are - their skills, talents, humor, and personality.
Showing support for your LGBTQ coworkers doesn't have to be complicated. Treat them the way you would want to be treated. Be respectful, be an advocate when needed, and be open to learning and understanding. Promoting an inclusive work environment will make your company a happier and healthier place for people of all backgrounds.
Don’t Out Your Friends
One of the worst things you can do is out someone without their consent. Outing refers to revealing someone's sexual orientation or gender identity without their permission. This is an incredible violation of their privacy and can have serious consequences.
As an ally, it’s important to respect how and when (or if) your LGBTQ friends and colleagues choose to come out. Let them share this part of themselves in their own time and in their own words. If someone comes out to you in confidence, keep it between the two of you unless they say otherwise.
Don’t ask invasive questions. Only ask questions that show you support them, like “How can I support you?” or “Are you doing okay?”
Don’t tell others, even with good intentions. Coming out is a personal journey that should be shared only when your friend is ready.
Don’t confront people you suspect are LGBTQ. Forcing someone out of the closet against their will is unethical.
Correct others who make assumptions. If someone wrongly assumes your friend’s sexual orientation or gender identity, politely correct them without revealing any details. Say something like “Actually, that’s not for us to assume.”
Coming out is a big step that should be done when your friends feel empowered and ready to share that part of themselves. As an ally, your role is to offer a safe, judgment-free space for them to open up in their own time. Respecting their privacy and consent will show your true support.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Don’t make assumptions about your LGBTQ co-workers or put them in uncomfortable situations. Many people in the LGBTQ community face discrimination and microaggressions in the workplace, so be mindful of your words and actions.
- Avoid gendered language
When talking to or about your co-workers, use gender-neutral pronouns like “they/them” unless you know someone’s preferred pronouns. Say “partner” instead of “boyfriend/girlfriend” or “husband/wife” unless they have told you otherwise. This helps create an inclusive environment where people feel respected.
- Don’t ask invasive questions
Avoid asking co-workers personal questions about their relationships, gender identity or sexual orientation. These types of questions can make people feel like their privacy is being invaded or that they are being objectified. If a co-worker chooses to open up to you about these topics, listen without judgment and thank them for sharing. But don’t pry or make them feel obligated to disclose details about their personal life.
- Correct Others Respectfully
If you witness a co-worker using inappropriate or disrespectful language towards someone in the LGBTQ community, speak up respectfully and privately explain why their words were hurtful. Say something like “Using language like that promotes discrimination” or “Please avoid those types of comments as they can be very disrespectful”. Correcting insensitive behavior and promoting inclusion are important ways allies can support their LGBTQ co-workers.
Educate yourself on issues facing the LGBTQ community
Speak out against anti-LGBTQ comments, jokes and bullying
Make your workplace visibly inclusive by putting up signs of support
By avoiding assumptions, using inclusive language and calling out disrespectful behavior, you can make a big difference in creating a welcoming environment for your LGBTQ co-workers. Promoting allyship and understanding is how we build a more just and inclusive society for people of all backgrounds.
A Kind Word Goes a Long Way
A kind word can go a long way in showing your LGBTQ co-workers you support them. Small acts of allyship make a big difference in creating an inclusive work environment.
- Compliment and Affirm Your Co-Worker
Tell your co-worker you appreciate them and value their work. For example, say something like “I really admire your leadership on the Acme project.” or “The way you handled that difficult client situation was amazing.”
Use the correct pronouns to address your co-workers without hesitation. Ask if you're unsure of someone's pronouns.
Comment on their style or appearance in an affirming way. For example, tell a trans-co-worker “That outfit looks great on you!” or tell a lesbian co-worker you like her new haircut.
- Listen without judgment
Make eye contact, give them your full attention, and listen to understand rather than just reply.
Do not make assumptions or pass judgment on their experiences. Say “I appreciate you sharing this with me.” rather than questioning or challenging them.
Ask open-ended questions to show interest in learning more about their life and experiences. For example, ask “How did you and your partner meet?” or “What was it like coming out at work?”
= Offer Specific Ways You Can Support Co-Worker
Ask if there's any way you can advocate for them or support them in meetings. For example, say “Please let me know if there's any way I can amplify your voice or back you up.”
See if they need any help with daily tasks like setting up for an event or sending out important communications. Say “I'm here if you need an extra set of hands.”
Ask open-ended questions to determine other ways you may be able to support them. For example, ask “What are some ways allies can best support you and the rest of the LGBTQ community?”
A few kind words and small acts of support can make a big difference in creating an inclusive environment where LGBTQ co-workers feel valued and respected. Look for opportunities in your everyday interactions to show your allyship and be there for your co-workers.
So there you have it, five simple ways to show your LGBTQ co-workers that you support them. Making an effort to use the right pronouns, advocating for inclusive policies, and calling out insensitive comments can go a long way in creating a welcoming work environment for people of all identities. While these actions may seem small, for your LGBTQ colleagues they can make a huge difference in feeling respected and valued. Supporting the LGBTQ community is so important in today's world, and it starts with the little things. Make a change in your office culture and be an ally - your co-workers will surely appreciate your efforts. Together, we can work to build a society where people are free to be their authentic selves.