More and more companies are aiming to increase their workplace diversity and ensure that they treat their LGBTQ+ employees with as much respect and dignity as all other workers. There is often a legal component to this, but even when there isn’t, this has been broadly recognized as the ethical approach – so, how do you go about ensuring LGBTQ+ employees are supported?
Asking the right questions is a good start. Some of the top questions include things like “What challenges do you face?” “How can we best support you?” “What makes you feel heard?” and “How can we increase representation within our company?” Some of these should be addressed to your LGBTQ+ employees, but don’t forget that they shouldn’t shoulder the whole burden of creating inclusivity!
And on the employee side, what questions should you be asking? How do you determine which workplaces are going to support you, invest in you, and help you grow?
Let’s jump straight into the questions and start the learning process!
Questions For Employers To Ask
Employers have a duty of care to their employees, and more employers across the world are looking for ways that they can be more supportive and inclusive of their diverse employees.
It is very important to remember that if you’re going to ask these questions of your employees, you must do so in ways that are safe and supportive, and do not single out your LGBTQ+ employees only; ask everybody. This will ensure you are being inclusive of all employees, including the ones who are not necessarily open about being queer.
It’s also crucial not to force your LGBTQ+ employees to do all the legwork of establishing equality in your company. Make sure you are also doing the work to educate, empower, and create initiatives that are supportive – with the input of others when necessary.
Q1) What Challenges Do You Face?
It’s difficult to start tackling problems if you don’t know what those problems are, and one of the most effective ways to find out is simply to ask. People often face subtle challenges, as well as the more overt ones that you might be able to see, and asking can be one of the best ways to gain insights into these.
If somebody is struggling with multiple small problems, eliminating these can make their work life massively easier. For example, it might be that they find your workplace’s systems are not inclusive of gender pronouns, or that they cannot change their email name even though their identity has shifted.
Alternatively, it might be that a certain manager is not open to ideas from queer individuals, or that they find they are not given credit for their achievements the way that other individuals are. Things like promotion opportunities or the ability to get raises are also areas that they may struggle with.
In short, LGBTQ+ people can have difficulties in an enormous range of areas, and the very best way to get to the core of these is to simply ask. Give individuals ways to speak up anonymously if this would make them feel safer, but ensure you talk about inclusivity and raise it as a specific issue so that people know it’s something you care about.
You should ask these sorts of questions regularly, even if you don’t think there are any issues at play. This maximizes the chances of you picking up on issues quickly and dealing with problems effectively.
Q2) How Can We Best Support You?
Many employees will benefit from being asked how they can be supported. However, it can help to accompany this question with some suggestions, so that the employee knows what sorts of things might be on offer. Things might include more face time, more training, more support when dealing with difficult clients (if applicable), etc.
Asking employees what you can do to support them is very beneficial because it demonstrates that you want to do so. This show of intention will help many employees to feel safer and more comfortable in the work environment, because they know that the employer is invested in their well-being.
Listen carefully to the answers that you get to this question, and be prepared to give the employee some thinking time if they need it. It may take them a while to come up with an answer, but often, this is an excellent way of gaining some insights into what you could be doing differently. You may even find you get ideas that could be implemented on a wider level.
Q3) What Makes You Feel Heard?
One of the challenges that many LGBTQ+ people face is that their voices are not heard. Because fewer LGBTQ+ individuals are in positions of leadership or wield influence in many companies, it is often harder for them to feel heard in the wider organizational landscape.
For this reason, it’s well worth finding ways that you can specifically champion LGBTQ+ voices, and you can do this by asking them what would help. This might be an opportunity during quarterly reviews to talk about problems, or a feedback form submitted bimonthly with new suggestions. It might be recognition efforts for employees who achieve X.
Whatever it looks like, finding out more about what makes LGBTQ+ people feel heard is a great way for organizations to ensure they are championing their employees and meeting their needs. This creates greater workplace satisfaction and more employee loyalty, so it’s a great thing to do.
Q4) How Comfortable Do You Feel Reporting Issues?
This is often a question organizations avoid because certain answers aren’t ones they want to hear. No company wants to be told that their structures for reporting are insufficient – but the reality is that if you don’t ask this question, there’s a risk of people not feeling safe enough to talk about the problems they encounter.
This is particularly true if problems are occurring at a managerial level, which will often be the case. If employees don’t feel that they will be protected from repercussions if they report their manager, there’s much less chance that they will do so.
This can create hostile working environments that the company doesn’t even know about, potentially exposing it to legal problems. It’s also likely to create high turnover and negative press for the company.
It’s crucial for companies to find out more about whether workers feel comfortable reporting issues, and to take decisive action when feedback indicates that this comfort isn’t there. This is the only way to ensure issues are highlighted and can be addressed. Companies that don’t do this will often only find out about problems when they’ve become huge.
Questions For Employees To Ask
If you’re weighing up a new company and trying to decide whether they would be a good place to work, their treatment of LGBTQ+ people may be high on your list – but how do you find out how they really handle things? Many companies will talk the talk, but how can you tell if they walk the walk?
Here are a few top questions you can ask to dig down into a potential employer’s policies and find out if they would be a supportive workplace that would invest in your growth – or not!
Q1) What Are The LGBTQ+ Success Stories?
If you’re interviewing at a company and you want to know how likely they are to champion your success, this is a great question to ask. It will give you multiple insights into how the employer operates.
Firstly, it will tell you whether the employer has created an environment in which LGBTQ+ individuals feel comfortable being open about their identities. If they haven’t, they’re not likely to be able to come up with many stories.
Secondly, it will tell you whether the company specifically looks for opportunities to raise the profile of these people and celebrate their contributions. A company should be able to produce multiple examples of LGBTQ+ people who have excelled there, whether they are still with the company or not.
Listen carefully to the answer and see how specific it is. If you just get generic corporate speak about “we really value our LGBTQ+ employees,” you may need to do more digging. There’s a chance that the vagueness stems from a lack of awareness or a lack of interest in promoting LGBTQ+ individuals, or both.
Q2) What’s The Dress Code?
The dress code may not matter very much to some people, but it can give you quite a lot of insight into the culture you’re handling. If there is a different dress code for men and women, for example, that already suggests this may be a culture with strictly defined gender norms. Even if they are open to LGBTQ+ people joining, you may feel singled out and alienated.
Think about how the company might deal with a nonbinary or trans individual joining, even if that’s not you. Do you think they would be welcoming? How might their rigid dress code cause issues, and what problems might arise if they only tried to change the code when it became a sticking point?
In many cases, a rigid dress code suggests at the very least that the employer has not thought carefully about being welcoming to LGBTQ+ individuals. If everybody is required to wear the same or if the dress code is relaxed, it’s more likely to be welcoming to LGBTQ+ people. This isn’t a strict rule, but it can give you insight into some of the nuances of the culture, which might otherwise be unclear.
Q3) Are There Gender-Inclusive Bathrooms?
Another very practical question, this can again provide insight into the overall culture. A company that hasn’t thought about this is not being inclusive to LGBTQ+ people, and even if not deliberately hostile, this can suggest that other issues are likely to exist as well.
Ideally, a company will already have gender-inclusive bathrooms, but how they respond to the question is also important to consider. If they don’t currently have these facilities but seem open to creating them or at least having a conversation, you will get a different sense of the company than if they just shrug and say that they don’t exist.
Again, you may not need gender-inclusive bathrooms yourself, but their presence or lack thereof can be culturally revealing.
Q4) What LGBTQ+ Benefits Do You Offer?
This question can be extremely important for some individuals; if you want to know whether health insurance is likely to cover certain operations or kinds of medication, it’s definitely one you should ask. In other situations, it may be more hypothetical, but it is still very worth covering.
Finding out how supportive the company is of alternative families may also be beneficial. For example, what kind of paternity leave do they offer? How do they handle polyamorous couples when it comes to work functions and plus-one events? What about significant life events like weddings? Would you be able to get time off for a honeymoon if you’re a gay couple, for example?
The response to this kind of question can again be enormously telling. If the employer is keen to tell you about the benefits or discuss what they plan to implement soon, this is a positive sign (although remember that “plans” may never materialize and you shouldn’t set too much in store by them).
However, if they shut the question down or give vague or evasive answers, this is a red flag that there’s a problem here. You may want to do more digging, or take this as a sign that this company may not be right for you.
There are a lot of considerations for LGBTQ+ people entering the workplace, and for employers who are trying to make work more welcoming and inclusive for everybody.
Hopefully, the questions above have given you some ideas of ways to gain insights, whether that’s for initiatives you’d like to implement at the company, or for your own decision-making when it comes to choosing a job that’s right for you.