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When Facing LGBTQ Inclusivity Pushback in the Workplace:
Fight or Fly?
Pride Leadership, author Dr. Steve Yacovelli has some advice
(New York, NY) December 6, 2019 – The media coverage and movement toward inclusivity awareness and training is all well and good, but what do you do when the company where you work–or would like to work–lacks, avoids or even pushes back against LGBTQ inclusivity?
In his recently published award-winning book, “Pride Leadership: Strategies for the LGBTQ+ Leader to be the King or Queen of their Jungle,” “gay Brene Brown” Dr. Steve Yacovelli not only identifies the six leadership traits that can greatly increase any LGBTQ+ Leader’s effectiveness, but also advice on what to do when facing LGBTQ bias in the workplace.
Below is a brief excerpt from Chapter Nine, “Getting in Shape: Shaping Culture,” in Pride Leadership, where Steve lays out his “5 Top Indicators of an Inclusive Business Culture,” and what do when the red–not rainbow–flag pops up.
Hey LGBTQ+ Leader: Should You Even TRY to Change the Org Culture?
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
As an LGBTQ+ Leader, you have the skill and the passion to help facilitate change. But should you? That’s a wonderful and really thought-provoking question. And my first reaction: focus on that during your mindfulness exercises (covered in the following chapter). Seriously; if your organizational culture is really uninclusive to our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, that’s a lot of work in addition to your day job. Ask yourself: do you want to fight or fly from the challenge?
I—Steve—will absolutely not answer that one for you; that’s a very personal decision, weighing a lot of variables, ideas, and considerations. But I will share an idea to help you think through the situation as best as you can. This is in two parts: (1) understand what you have in relationship to an inclusive organizational culture; then (2) determine how/if you want to change it.
Part 1: How Inclusive Is Your Org Culture?
As a consultant, I have the opportunity to glimpse into many corporate cultures (I’m sort of like an organizational anthropologist—think Jane Goodall, but in cubicles instead of the jungle, and more smartly dressed, and maybe a little less butch). I’ve seen businesses with corporate values like, “We Promote Work/Life Balance!” yet expected employees to work 60+ hours a week. I’ve seen organizations say, “We celebrate diversity!” yet all senior leaders were middle-aged white dudes. And I’ve seen businesses say, “We want to make the world a better place!” and they do a lot of philanthropic efforts and promote employees’ volunteerism to truly make the world a better place.
For me, I like to look at a corporate culture and see how inclusive it is to all people, but especially to our LGBTQ+ Community. In my experience there are 5 Top Indicators of an Inclusive Business Culture to explore when seeing if an organization is inclusive and therefor embraces LGBTQ+ people being authentic and true to themselves at work:
- Leadership … What does the leadership look like? What do they do (and not just say) to promote inclusivity? Is their language truly inclusive or is it more heterosexist? What’s the demographic makeup of the leadership team and does it fairly represent the rest of the org?
- Corporate Policies … Does the organization include policies referring to same-sex couples (married or otherwise)? Does it include health care specific for trans employees? What’s the company’s Nondiscrimination Policy: does it include sexual orientation and gender identity and gender expression?
- The “Real” Corporate Values at Play … Using the criteria above, what are the organization’s real values, the ones on display every day? Are they the ones listed on the organization’s website, or are they really different? Is there obvious alignment in what the organization says it does and what it promotes to the outside world?
- Inclusion Support (HR, D&I, ERGs) … Is there a Head of Diversity & Inclusion in the organization? What do they do? Is it their full-time gig? Does diversity to them really mean, “Let’s celebrate _____ month!” or does it go deeper? Does the organization have an Employee Resource Group (ERG) dedicated to LGBTQ+ employees and their allies?
- External Efforts … Does the organization market or communicate directly to the LGBTQ+ Community? When same-sex marriage became legal, what did your organization do to support or hinder its progress? When certain groups threaten the rights of LGBTQ+ people outside of the workplace (like at the state or federal level), does the organization (and its leadership) stand up or remain silent?
Through looking at the data of the above, you can get a really good sense as to how inclusive your organizational culture is. Now on to
Part 2 … Part 2: Do You Fight or Flee for LGBTQ+ Inclusivity?
- Define … Define what are YOUR personal values (see Chapter 4 on authenticity). Identify your top five-ish values.
- Discover … Discover the true Corporate Values (step #3, above). … Do your own Nancy Drew-ing on what your organizational culture is really like.
- Aligned? … Ask yourself, “How’s the alignment?” between your personal values and those of the organization. Are your values reflected in the real values of the business?
- Is this OK? … Comparing the two data sets, can you live with this level of alignment?
- What’s Next? … Now comes the big decision: fight or flight. If you aren’t as aligned as you’d like, make some choices. You can try and foster change within the organization and lobby for more inclusivity; or you can pack up your toys and find an employer who embraces the beautiful difference that is you. (And yes, it’s a job, but life’s too short to work at a place that won’t embrace your authentic self.) If you choose to facilitate change, use the strategies shared in this chapter to help. Also consider joining (or starting!) the Employee Resource Group (ERG) or other employee organization to be sure your LGBTQ+ voice is heard.
At the heart of Pride Leadership, by Dr. Steve Yacovelli, which has been praised by workplace leaders and opens with an enthusiastic foreword by Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims, is Yacovelli’s firm conviction that our life experience as LGBTQ+ people is a unique advantage, the shiny X-factor, that can make us all great leaders.
About the Author
Dr. Steve Yacovelli (“The Gay Leadership Dude”) is Owner & Principal of TopDog Learning Group, LLC, a learning and development, leadership, change management, and diversity and consulting firm based in Orlando, FL, USA, with affiliates across the globe. ToDog Learning Group, LLC is a certified member of the NGLCC LGBTBE (LGBT-Owned Business Enterprise). Yacovelli is a member of The Pride Chamber, the LGBT chamber of commerce for greater Orlando.
He’s worked with Fortune 500 greats like The Walt Disney Company and Bayer, not-for-profits like The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The American Library Association, large universities like The Ohio State University and The University of Central Florida, as well as small entrepreneurial rock stars like International Training & Development and GovMojo, Inc.
Steve lives in Orlando with his husband, Richard, and their “top dogs” Ella and Russel.
For more about Dr. Steve Yacovelli (with video!), please visit www.topdoglearning.biz
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