In many ways, the U.S. has become a frightening place to live for people identifying as members of the LGBTQ community. While gay marriage is now legal across the nation, many jurisdictions lack equal protection by failing to treat sexual and gender identity as protected classes. In addition, economic insecurity ruins lives and leads to mental health issues — even suicide.
If you’re a business owner, no doubt you want to embrace equality. After all, those with entrepreneurial mindsets understand that everyone has value, and diversity leads to greater innovation and problem-solving. Here’s what all managers and top leaders of companies large or small need to know about making their office inclusive and accepting of all.
1. Make Equality Part of Your Company Mission Statement
There’s no better way to spread the love to new hires than to include a commitment to equality in your company mission statement. You immediately improve the reputation of your business by making it known that hate plays no part in what you do each day.
Including equality in your mission statement benefits you by attracting a higher class of employee to your team. No one relishes working at a company where a hostile work environment exists. When you make it clear what you stand for, you attract top talent.
2. Offer Training on Inclusion
Some business owners take such a laissez-faire approach to management, and they mistakenly assume their team members know what is appropriate behavior and what is not. However, everyone benefits from inclusiveness training.
Hold meetings and presentations on tolerance at least once per year. Throw time and energy in to make such training engaging and fun so staff members don’t roll their eyes when they get the memo.
3. Address Incidents of Workplace Harassment Proactively
If your business operates in a jurisdiction lacking workplace protection for those of different gender or sexual orientation, be aware that many members of the LBGTQ community may hesitate to report incidents of harassment themselves out of fear of retaliation.
Be proactive in preventing harassment by intervening immediately when such incidents occur and punish the guilty party, not the victim, appropriately. Create an anonymous way for other employees to report suspected or witnessed harassment and encourage reporting.
4. Consider a Non-Hierarchical Structure
When setting up your business or adding a new division to your team, consider a non-hierarchical structure. You’re the boss and you want people to know that, but remember Tywin Lannister’s epic words from “Game of Thrones” — “any king who must say, ‘I am the king,’ is no true king.” The same goes for when you’re a corporate head honcho.
Instead of making promotions contingent on someone else losing their job or moving on, create a rewards system that allows workers to earn bonuses and raises without shifting positions. This keeps staff members happier and motivates them to excel even though doing so won’t necessarily land them a corner office. Many would rather have the extra money instead, anyway.
5. Offer Equal Benefits to All
Since some jurisdictions fail to mandate equal protections and pay for members of the LGBTQ community, address this yourself by offering identical benefits for everyone. Consider, for example, providing health coverage to domestic partners as well as married couples, as some community members hesitate to marry out of fear of being outed.
The same goes when tragedy strikes. A personal loss, like the death of a loved one, causes as much grief whether or not the union between the two was recognized on a fancy piece of paper. Offer bereavement leave for dealing with such events and provide genuine condolences to all.
6. Support LGBTQ Causes When Giving Back
Finally, when it comes to community involvement, consider supporting LGBTQ causes with the team. Take part in Pride and other events dedicated to the community. Donate money to or partner with charities that support LGBTQ equality.
An Inclusive Workplace Is a Productive One
Embracing diversity regardless of sexual or gender orientation allows your firm to attract top talent and keeps employee morale high even during crunch time. Take your business to the next level by embracing diversity and valuing the contributions of all staff members.