The modern workplace is becoming increasingly more diverse. With the nation’s top companies advocating for diversity, equity, & inclusion, you are likely to find yourself working with people who may be very different from you. It is essential to be respectful of every person you work with, especially if you are working with someone from an underrepresented group, such as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Whether you are in the LGBTQ+ community yourself or see yourself as an ally to the community, there are ways to improve your allyship and continue to advocate for yourself and your LGBTQ+ peers. Here are some tips on how you can be a better ally at work:
You may hear new terms used or gender identities expressed that you may have never heard of before. That’s okay! You are not expected to be an expert. However, it is important to learn more and familiarize yourself with terms you hear from someone to get a better understanding of who they are and how their identity carries into the workplace. You can start by researching on your own. Taking the initiative shows that you are genuinely invested in becoming a better ally and making your workplace as inclusive as it can be. Review resources compiled by members of the LGBTQ+ community that they feel represents themselves best so you know what steps you need to take to ensure that your co-workers feel accepted, represented, and understood.
Ask for clarification
If you are unsure of how to address someone, it’s always better to ask for clarification as you don’t want to make assumptions and risk misidentifying someone. You can always introduce yourself first and offer a little bit about yourself before requesting for someone to identify themselves. For example, if you are unsure of what someone’s name, gender identity, or pronouns are, you can start off by disclosing your name and pronouns first and gently asking if they can clarify the information they would like you to use when you address them. If you think that someone may not feel comfortable disclosing certain parts of their identity, never push or pressure someone to come out. Instead, use neutral language that makes no assumptions about gender identity or sexual orientation.
Correct your mistakes
If someone has told you that you made a mistake, or if you think you made a mistake, apologize and learn the correct way to address someone, and try to correct others if you see them making mistakes. It’s better to have one awkward learning moment than to make your co-worker feel like their identity is being ignored. There will never be a perfect ally, and you will most likely have blind spots, which is why continued education can promote effective advocacy and allyship. Your commitment to learning can build trust over time and build on the efforts to develop a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment.
Make sure that your LGBTQ+ co-workers feel like they have a way to make themselves heard. Encourage participation during meetings and brainstorming sessions, or make time to schedule individual conversations and create a safe space for everyone to feel heard and secure. Be an active listener, understand where someone is coming from and how their unique perspective contributes to the workplace. Start initiatives or create educational events that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion or foster an understanding of the many LGBTQ+ identities.
These are just a few tips on being a better ally and advocating for your LGBTQ+ co-workers. While there is a lot that goes into being an ally, it’s essential to always make an effort and approach your learning with a humble and open mind. If you have any questions or want more guidance on how you can make yourself a better ally at work, feel free to schedule an appointment with a Career Coach at the UConn Center for Career Development.
If you want to learn more about diversity, equity, and inclusion and how to find resources that will equip you with the knowledge you need to continue transforming your workplace into a more LGBTQ+ friendly space, check out the resources listed on our LGBTQ+ Affinity Community page, such as the OutRight Action International campaign, the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, and the National Center for Transgender Equality.