The first thing I notice when I visit a coworker’s desk is the pictures they display. I love the way a picture can capture and communicate love, excitement, joy, and connection. I often see pictures of spouses, children, dogs, cats, sometimes even farm animals! I see children laughing, parents hugging, and animals napping. Just for a moment, I step into their lives, travels, homes, trips, and activities and I see what means the most to them. As an outsider, I look at this small snapshot into my coworker’s life and I learn about their values, interests, and convictions.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, 46% of LGBTQ+ people are closeted at work. This means that almost half of LGBTQ+ people in the workplace do not have pictures of what they care about set out at their desks.
As a gay woman, I have heard comments, jokes, and assumptions describing negative feelings towards LGBTQ+ people and families in various social contexts. These comments can be described as microaggressions or “verbal and nonverbal behavioral or environmental acts of disrespect targeting people perceived to have less power.” These microaggressions towards LGBTQ+ people may be intentional or unintentional but the result is the same. Microaggressions alienate LGBTQ+ people and make them feel inferior compared to their counterparts.
Research suggests that although official policies that protect LGBTQ+ employees are a necessary start toward an inclusive workplace, the true measure of workplace inclusion comes from a culture grounded in supportive coworker interactions. Organizations must ask their LGBTQ+ employees to take charge in establishing what an inclusive environment looks like. They must show employees where and how to support their coworkers by supporting allyship and advocacy efforts. Most importantly, top-down management support will create and expand LGBTQ+ inclusive work environments. When LGBTQ+ people feel safe being out at work, their productivity, investment, and dedication to the job will increase, resulting in an overall benefit for the entire organization.
Even after Pride Month ends, it is our collective responsibility to ensure inclusive workplaces through supportive interactions with our coworkers. Regardless of age, gender, orientation, race, ability, or religion, work should be a place where we can bring our whole selves and feel safe to set out pictures of the people and things we care about most.