LGBT+ employees face significant barriers to inclusion in the workplace.
By Marta Chmielowicz
Whilst diversity and inclusion have long been lauded as key strategies to improve belonging and engagement at work, the reality is that many organisations struggle to create an inclusive workplace for all employees. LGBT+ individuals in particular face significant hurdles at work, with the CIPD’s Inclusion at Work study revealing higher instances of workplace conflict, harassment, discrimination, and psychological safety.
According to the study findings, LGB+ employees experience higher levels of workplace conflict than their heterosexual, cisgender colleagues, with 40% claiming they have experienced workplace conflict in the past 12 months, compared to 29% of heterosexual employees. The number is even higher for transgender employees, at 55%.
Furthermore, when conflicts arose, 44% of LGB+ workers who experienced being undermined or humiliated said that the issue was not resolved, and 38% said it was only partly resolved. Similarly, 23% of trans workers said they experienced discrimination but over half (62%) said the instance of discrimination was not resolved or only partly resolved (20%).
This is resulting in lowered job satisfaction and psychological safety. Whilst 85% of heterosexual workers reported good working relationships, only 80% of LGB+ employees and 75% of trans workers could say the same. Additionally, only 35% of trans employees report feeling a high level of psychological safety, with 18% saying they feel psychologically unsafe compared to 16% of LGB+ workers and 10% of heterosexual workers.
Overall, LGBT+ workers tend to report lower job satisfaction, higher intention to quit, and lower discretionary effort than heterosexual workers. To make real progress on these issues, employers need to continually review their policies, show the courage and curiosity to learn and challenge poor behavior, offer guidance to line managers and employees, and foster positive and inclusive work relationships.
Organisations’ handling of conflict and harassment also needs to improve to ensure that anti-discrimination policies are understood and carried out consistently. HR leaders should consider the following steps.
- Create policies that set expectations of what is and isn’t acceptable behavior, with robust guidance for managers on how to report and deal with conflict.
- Ensure employees feel comfortable reporting instances of harassment or discrimination, and seriously investigate any conflicts.
- Build a peer support and allyship network that LGBT+ employees can turn to when facing bullying and harassment.
- Take a zero-tolerance approach to prevent and addressing discrimination.
Change will only come once leaders are aware of and understanding of the lived experiences of their LGBTQ+ employees and willing to tackle the barriers to inclusion embedded within their business.