This is an issue we discuss regularly in my diversity training sessions and continuing education courses. It’s somewhat understandable when you look at the statistics of how many people identify as LGBTQ. It’s only about 4.5%, according to a 2017 Gallup poll. I don’t anticipate that that has changed all that much, although we will see some slight fluctuation in the numbers.
The bottom line is most people don’t identify as LGBTQ. Depending on the industry you work in, where you live, or how comfortable you are with relating to people, you might not have much experience with LGBTQ people. Or you might not realize that you already know people who are LGBTQ—and you therefore already have some experience dealing with them.
Here’s a quick tip: They’re just people, like you and me.
But I want to go deeper because I think this is where we get ourselves into discrimination claims. It’s that we have these implicit biases about LGBTQ people based on our backgrounds. Some people have religious exceptions to working in and around with people who identify as LGBTQ, so maybe you have been isolated from them. But again, they are just people. There’s nothing to fear about them (at least no more than you might fear people generally.)
There’s a good chance that you’re going to end up working with someone at some point who identifies as LGBTQ. So here are three other tips:
Don’t concern yourself with private issues that are relevant to the job. That’s a good rule for anything, right? Any person that you’re dealing with, it doesn’t really matter unless it affects the job.
Make sure that you’re reviewing federal, state, and local protections. If, for example, you’re here in New York City, we have the federal, the New York State, and the New York City protections for employees who are LGBTQ.
Focus on essential functions, or what is truly required for, a job. That’s an ADA standard. It’s an Americans with Disabilities Act standard, but I like to use it as a general guideline. If you’re going outside of what’s essential for for performing the job, there’s a good chance you’re going to step in a discrimination situation.
If you’re struggling with us in particular, I do have a very affordable $30 online course for a small businesses. It’s just very simply called Managing LGBTQ Employees in New York.
I encourage you to take it when you can. In the meantime, keep listening with your third year for those hurts you can heal–or at least don’t add to them.
Want a do-it-yourself process?
Nance L. Schick, Esq., is a workplace attorney, ethno-religious mediator, and conflict resolution coach based in New York City. Her goal is to keep managers and small business owners out of court and build their conflict resolution skills so everyone has a better work experience. She is creator of the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process, author of DIY Conflict Resolution, and an award-winning entrepreneur acknowledged by Super Lawyers (ADR, 2018, 2019 & 2020), the New York Economic Development Corporation/B-Labs (Finalist, Best for NYC 2015 & 2016), U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2015 Blue Ribbon Small Business), Enterprising Women Magazine (Honorable Mention, 2014 Woman of the Year awards).