Workplace diversity promotes harmony within an organization by embracing various beliefs and sexual orientations. However, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community, just like other minority groups, are not always accepted in the workplace environment. Due to varying cases of discrimination, LGBT may conceal their personalities. While cases of open acts of violence and discrimination against the LGBT community have significantly reduced in many organizations, challenges still exist that require dire and lasting solutions for a harmonious workplace environment. Through specific initiatives, it is possible to create a safe work environment for LGBT staff members. For instance, a culturally diverse mindset can enhance harmony and encourage minorities to be equally productive. Skilled employees may come from different gender, sexual orientation, and identity. Hence, managers who understand this aspect are in a better position to tap skilled talent and create a diverse workplace. By including LGBT employees in the workplace, employers can establish a relationship and, as a result, achieve positive results in the workplace. Besides the underlying challenges, managers should look beyond sexual orientation and identity during recruitment to avoid losing talented and potential recruits because of prejudice.
Challenges for LGBT Groups Within Organizations
Unlike in previous years when the LGBT community would attract ridicule, and extreme cases of violence, such as torture and death, most parts of the U.S. and Europe are now embracing members of this community. According to Githens and Aragon (2009), LGBT groups should focus on enhancing effectiveness in organizations and initiating diverse social changes. However, some instances of discrimination and indirect segregation in most corporations, which are yet to embrace cultural diversity in all aspects, still exist (Pichler, Varma, & Bruce 2010). Thus, some LGBT members of staff may not feel comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation at the office openly.
Lack of Deliberate Efforts from Management
A heteronormative society has made it impossible for the LGBT community to be fully accepted and embraced within organizations. This can create awkward situations, especially during team building where colleagues are encouraged to interact and share their personal lives. While society and contemporary organizations are slowly embracing gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, such people still face high levels of discrimination and stigma. Notably, embracing diversity in the workplace does not happen instantly (Elias et al. 2017). Therefore, the lack of deliberate efforts by management has increased cases of discrimination in most organizations.
Health Insurance Covers
When candidates apply for jobs, health insurance is one of the most important factors they consider. Health insurance does not cover same-sex partnerships in some states and parts of Europe. Heterosexual employees enjoy health coverage for their spouses and family. Hence, this policy discriminates against LGBT employees. Managers who wish to employ and retain LGBT personnel and their beneficiaries have been urged to give equality regarding accessing healthcare (Elias et al. 2017). However, this initiative has proven to be a great challenge for such employees.
Today, same-sex couples can nurture children just as heterosexual couples. However, most organizations still discriminate when it comes to leaving of absence policy. In most traditional organizations, LGBT fathers face challenges trying to convince their employers of the need for paternal leave (Elias et al. 2017). Thus, the policy may deny fathers feeling at a loss for being denied the opportunity to bond with their families.
Homophobic Comments and Behaviour
Cases of homophobia have made it impossible for LGBT employees to share their private lives with their colleagues. Hence, they conceal their identity to avoid discrimination and exclusion from important milestones, such as valuable promotions and well-deserved pay-raise. In addition, homophobic employees can make offensive remarks or threats to LGBT employees, especially in offices where LGBT members are not fully embraced (Allan, Tebbe & Autin 2015). Thus, LGBT employees may feel insecure and threatened, which may affect their performance in the workplace.
The only way forward to counter these challenges is to find long-lasting solutions which can make LGBT employees feel well-represented and appreciated in the workplace. These solutions may include:
First, inclusivity revolves around basic rights and opportunities. Health insurance covers and leave plans should be accessible to all groups. Leave opportunities should also be implemented fairly to include LGBT parents. Minority groups, such as the LGBT may not be involved in the organization’s events and activities, creating a feeling of discrimination. Therefore, managers should include these staff members in activities, such as inclusive messaging, to feel part of the organization. Inclusivity also encompasses pay raises, promotion, and all boardroom activities. Any hardworking and deserving LGBT staff should be promoted based on merit, not orientation or identity (Elias et al. 2017). Therefore, by creating a culture of inclusion, all members of staff, regardless of affiliation, will feel appreciated without fear of discrimination during appraisals.
Not all forms of discrimination are intentional or malicious. For instance, some colleagues may make derogatory or offensive remarks unknowingly. However, these offensive comments will still hurt the LGBT staff and make them feel marginalized. Proper training addresses common stereotypes and misconceptions regarding the LBGT community. By understanding how misguided remarks and comments can create animosity in the workplace, colleagues can become more empathetic towards minority groups. Through awareness and intervention in case of discrimination, a contemporary organization can promote a conducive environment for LGBT employees. Deliberate efforts by management to contain discrimination can be made through small and manageable yet gradual initiatives that will play a critical role in eradicating stereotypes and homophobia (Heintz 2012). Thus, proper education on such issues can reduce and eliminate insensitive comments, especially for transgender people as they transition.
Protective Measures and Policies
In some states and countries in Europe, members of the LGBT can be fired if they openly admit their sexual orientation. However, organizations that wish to have multicultural diversity can deter such forms of discrimination by assuring their employees of inclusivity, regardless of their sexual orientation. Protective measures can also be boosted by instilling policies that are against discrimination in the workplace. As a result, LGBT staff members will feel embraced and comfortable expressing their identities in the workplace (Allan, Tebbe, & Autin 2015). A discrimination-free environment creates harmony and increases productivity.
Protective measures and policies also support LGBT-oriented organizations. This proves multicultural acceptance and tolerance of minority groups, such as LGBT staff members. Studies reveal that corporations and organizations with support groups for such staff members can counter discrimination or violence against minorities and instead create a sense of togetherness and reassurance (Drydakis 2012). Thus, LGBT employees who feel protected give more input into their work as opposed to spending time dealing with discrimination.
Sometimes, what might be considered as insignificant factors can assist in creating a sense of equality in the workplace. Gender-neutral washrooms, for instance, can be a pivotal point of reference in proving that LGBT people are included and accepted at work (Heintz 2012). Therefore, social facilities without a gender description are a clear sign that an office is free of sexuality bias.
Dire Consequences for Perpetrators
While cases of homophobia have been significantly addressed and contained, especially in contemporary corporations, some traditional organizations are still struggling with these cases. To change this mindset, consequences for employees who are involved in making homophobic comments and remarks or depicting any signs of discrimination against this group should be initiated. Structures such as CCTV and sound policies should be established to enhance the security of LGBT employees in the workplace. Offices should release memos that discourage homophobia and transphobia and maintain that any form of harassment or victimization of this group may constitute to suspension and even dismissal (Crossan 2010). Therefore, by taking away the threat element, workplaces with traditional values will eliminate prejudice, discrimination, and persecution against the LGBT members of staff.
Repealing Discriminatory Laws
In some parts of Europe and some states in the U.S., sexual orientation is valid grounds for discrimination in job opportunities and promotion. To eradicate such forms of discrimination in employment, these discriminatory laws that criminalize same-sex relationships between consenting adults and transgender people should be condemned and repealed. Hence, this will be a vital move towards protecting the LGBT community from acts of violence and discrimination from society (Fasoli, Paladino, & Sulpizio 2017). The perpetrators of violence among this minority group, whether inside or outside workplaces, should be prosecuted and, if found guilty, imprisoned.
Justice for LGBT Victims. Once the law is involved in protecting members of the LGBT community against harassment and discrimination, more workplaces will embrace them. Cases of stigma, discrimination, ill-treatment, physical and emotional abuse, as well as hate crimes in any form against the LGBT will be fully contained within the offices and outside. Governments have a responsibility to defend minorities from discrimination. By upholding non-discriminatory laws, the LGBT community will be protected against discrimination in healthcare, education, the justice system, housing, and employment. Legal recognition of both LGB and transgender individuals can counter prejudices. The government should fund public education and training and encourage healthy dialogues across the board. Consulting the LGBT community and asking them to participate in national activities, such as laws and policies that will enhance their safety, can promote humanitarian initiatives, create a ripple effect, and resonate in boardrooms (Fasoli, Paladino, & Sulpizio 2017). Thus, diverse organizations will have no other option but to embrace and include such staff members.
Perceived LGBT Discrimination. The LGBT community has endured discrimination and acts of violence, both physical and emotional. While these acts of prejudice have reduced significantly, LGBT is still a vulnerable group, just like other minorities. The legal system has not assisted, and the workplace environment has not been conducive, especially in offices that are too traditional to accept multicultural diversity. Therefore, in many instances, the LGBT community has had to conceal their identity and disregard homophobic comments and all manner of aggression. According to Allan, Tebbe, and Autin (2015), members of the LGBT community that work in non-conforming environments lower their expectations in terms of progressing in their careers or enjoying a pay raise. In some instances, LGBT employees will put more effort compared to their heterosexual colleagues to receive recognition (Allan, Tebbe & Autin 2015). This means that even though they are in the same job grade as their heterosexual colleagues and put in the same effort, most LGBT employees still receive a lower remuneration package compared to their counterparts.
Perceived discrimination against the LGBT community is not always direct. The stigma and discrimination are concealed in many forms, even in organizations that have a zero-tolerance policy on homophobia and transphobia. In some instances, these employees are discriminated against during team building activities, where they are barred from sharing their personal lives with their colleagues. In other instances, they are discouraged from disclosing their identity openly to avoid creating an awkward environment in the workplace (Tilscik 2011). In this case, they are not openly stigmatized or discriminated against, but the social conditioning forces them to conceal their identity.
Determinants of LGBT Inclusion in an Organisation
Contemporary organizations are slowly embracing minorities, such as LGBT employees. The fast-changing world calls for the inclusion of previously marginalized groups. Companies that embrace traditional values and are still close-minded about diversity are being outperformed by their contemporary business rivals that have embraced multicultural diversity. Modern organizations understand that the LGBT community is equally talented, productive, and potential employees. Most private organizations are looking for skilled talent regardless of orientation. These companies have primarily created a multicultural, friendly environment (Schwarz 2010). Thus, LGBT employees are not discriminated against based on their sexual identity.
Modern organizations understand that discrimination towards LGBT employees can harm their operations. The law has been quite stringent on employers who stigmatize minorities by imposing fines against such employers. Today, potential LGBT employees are specific to employers who provide a conducive working environment (Schwarz 2010). Thus, a diverse workplace that treats all its employees fairly and equally attracts competent employees from all backgrounds.
Managers understand the importance of upholding human rights. Through Corporate Equality Index (CEI), companies are evaluated based on their nondiscriminatory policies, such as health insurance to all employees regardless of their orientation. Through such initiatives, the LGBT community can put their best efforts into the workplace, while potential employees will have enough confidence to apply for positions in any organization. In the past, transgender employees have been discriminated against, especially regarding insurance coverage, since the medical costs during their transition are significant (Heintz 2012). Therefore, employers that include such covers in their insurance plans can keep and retain competent transgender employees.
In some instances, personal factors can greatly impact where LGBT persons prefer to work. While no established federal mechanisms that directly prosecute employers that discriminate against LGBT employees, notable progress is evident outside the workplace. For instance, same-sex marriages are allowed in many parts of Europe, while the U.S. Domestic partnerships between same-sex couples are also recognized. In addition, many LGBT persons would prefer to work in parts and states that allow civil unions. Therefore, employers living in states and parts that prohibit such unions may not have an opportunity to hire competent and valuable LGBT employees because of such stringent laws.
Recruitment and retention have been the two most significant areas that determine the inclusion of LGBT persons in organisations. An employer’s approach to merit recruitment must encompass diversity. Some hiring methods can accurately demonstrate that a company is committed to embracing diversity and inclusion of the LGBT community. For companies to demonstrate that it is all-inclusive, they can highlight relevant policies that benefit LGBT employees in their career section during recruitment. Organizations, through corporate social charities, may include implementing recruiting programs at campuses. These programs should give LGBT students a platform to connect with potential employers. In addition, undergraduate and MBA LGBT students would benefit from such efforts. Organizations can also opt to fund outreach programs and sponsor less fortunate LGBT students (Tilscik 2011). Thus, this can create a sense of inclusion for young aspiring individuals in the LGBT community.
Retention of LGBT employees is also a critical element in gauging inclusion. By hiring diverse recruits, firms should maintain a respectful and merit-based environment, regardless of diversity. LGBT employees, just as their counterparts, should be treated equally in the sense that they should be able to access opportunities and resources as well as an opportunity to prove their competence in an organization. Employers should include programs that focus on giving minorities a chance to advance their career and growth. Thus, to achieve such milestones, LGBT employees should be enrolled for leadership and mentorship programs and engaged in innovation and content creation (Tilscik 2011). Thus, these opportunities can encourage LGBT employees to stay with their employers and help build the organization.
From the discussion, to counter cases of homophobia and discrimination in the workplace, more alliances between heterosexual and gay people should be initiated. Managers should be vocal about anti-discrimination in the workplace, regardless of workers’ orientation. Notably, a workplace that creates a supportive employee platform enjoys a competitive advantage. When employees feel secure, they become empowered. For instance, when minority groups such as the LGBT feel safe in the workplace, they strive to put more effort since they can identify with the company. Therefore, an organization that sets standards in terms of equality and embraces diversity can encourage competent individuals to apply for job vacancies, which prove to be beneficial to the growth of the company.
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