LGBTQ+ allyship in the workplace: 6 tips for being a better coworker
At EF Education First , we are always looking for ways to make our workplace more welcoming and supportive for our LGBTQ+ team members. And as an education organization, staying up to date with the latest research is vital to evolving in the right direction. Harvard Business Review recently conducted a four-year study exploring genuine and effective allyship based on the responses of thousands of LGBTQ+-identified participants across the US. Based on their findings, we compiled a few ways to be better allies to our LGBTQ+ coworkers.
Create an accepting working environment for all
Our mission is opening the world through education, and we believe the world is better when we try to understand one another. Acceptance is the practice of understanding someone or something without changing or passing judgment. It is the foundation of being a good ally. Here are a few examples of how to practice acceptance at work:
1. Consider this: When you walk into the office after a long weekend, instead of saying, "Hey guys, how was your weekend?" say, "Hey everyone," "Hey team," or "Hey y'all!"
Why: Using gender-neutral language in the workplace is a great way to make everyone feel comfortable and accepted.
2. Consider this: Include your pronouns in your email signature, on virtual meetings, and on LinkedIn. Example: John Doe (he/him/his)
Why: Including your pronouns helps normalize the use of personal pronouns publicly for everyone and helps create an accepting and respectful workplace culture.
Turn your words into action
Acceptance must be paired with action for an ally to be effective and meaningful. According to the study, "allies are people who take action to improve the climate around them and to improve themselves." Here are a few examples of how to take action at work:
3. Consider this: Attend a session focused on a LGBTQ+ topic or issue at work or join a book club with a LGBTQ+ focused reading list.
Why: Educating yourself is the starting point for better understanding. Confronting your conscious or unconscious biases is essential to becoming a better ally.
4. Consider this: Encourage leaders of your organization to include marginalized voices in the conversation of drafting or discussing company policies. If you are making the policy, be sure to include people from the LGBTQ+ community and other minority communities to avoid any potential bias.
Why: It is up to allies to create space and include marginalized voices in conversations that they have been traditionally left out of to move your workplace in the right direction.
Be open to correction and have humility
Humility, in the context of allyship, means self-awareness and a lack of ego. The study found that allies with humility are good listeners, open to correction, and willing to learn. Here are a few examples of how to practice humility at work:
5. Consider this: When conversing with a colleague who might be sharing a personal story about their identity, make it your goal to hear directly from them and learn from their story. Do not take control of the narrative or make the conversation about you and your own experiences.
Why: Being a good listener is essential to being a good ally. Allies amplify underrepresented voices and create safe spaces to hear those voices.
6. Consider this: You use an antiquated or unintentionally offensive term. Instead of being defensive or worrying about how people perceive you, learn from your mistake, apologize to those who heard you use the term and anyone you offended, and move forward.
Why: We are all human, and making mistakes is inevitable. By being open to feedback and correction, you learn from your mistakes and make yourself a better ally.
Given how much time we all spend at work, it is important that the people we work with feel welcomed and accepted. Read more about the findings of Harvard Business Review's four-year study.