Lead toward Workplace Inclusion: Part 2

Lead toward Workplace Inclusion: Part 2

Written by Robert S. Robinson

In the workplace, employees are exposed unfairly to privilege in leadership, micro-inequities in employee treatment, institutionalized prejudice, and sometimes, overt discrimination. Heightened awareness by leaders can drive them to bring about a more inclusive workplace.

Inclusion and equality are extremely important to LGBTQ+ since they as a group do not have all the same protections under the law as do heterosexual, cisgender employees. Thus, LGBTQ+ employees may be impacted by those privileged employees and employers who may not know that LGBTQ+ are not provided equal treatment protections. Though privilege does not equate to bullying behavior and entitlement, this article will address these inequities and micro-inequities in Part 1 Privilege, which was published yesterday, and Part 2 Discrimination, below.

Universities are bastions of institutionalized discrimination. Often times these biases are labeled and dismissed as school traditions, the Ivy League Way, the SEC mentality, Frat Row antics, Mean Girls, or boys just being boys sharing locker room talk.  In reality, these are examples of institutionalized discrimination; these behaviors oftentimes are violations of school policies, workplace policies, and even federal civil rights laws.  Oftentimes, people inside the institutions don’t realize that they are participating in institutionalized biases. We call this the “bubble effect.”  Those inside the bubble don’t realize that they are functioning inside an isolated space of controlled norms of behavior and are restricted to the point of view of the institutionalized behaviors of conduct.  However, a visitor to the institution or organizational climate assessor easily can notice behaviors that are unique to that institution and may be deemed as a contribution to a toxic culture.

Sometimes people of privilege will pretend to embrace diversity and bespeak of embracing LGBTQ+ on an inclusive level, but at the first sign of a work disagreement, the privileged person will use the gay peoples’ differences against them: “She’s just an angry lesbian…why doesn’t she wear heels like the rest of the administrative team?  She needs to conform.” Then attacks can escalate. Workplace bullies will single out someone that they are competitive with or want to gain power over by attacking a primary trait of a person that cannot be changed. For example, “Well, you know he’s gay by the way he talks with his hands; he must be weak.’’  These non-sequiturs are no more than sabotage. Workplace bullies use these logical fallacies for their own surge in power and authority. When workplace leaders and policy makers allow these micro biases to flourish and become accepted as the truth, the subjects of these attacks suffer. Therefore, they do not perform at peak performance.  Employers will then become a participant in the gossip and start to believe it.  Such employers may find themselves as perpetuators of discrimination, in legal terms.    As recently as 2019, a young, millennial LGBTQ+ left his government-sponsored position because his boss kept telling him, ‘You know you can change your sexual orientation if you just turn your life over to God.”   The boss’s choice to perpetuate discrimination by repeatedly trying to change the young man’s core sexual orientation led to a violation of the separation of church and state and the boss was reprimanded by Human Resources.

Other times, the workplace bully will become a sniper or saboteur by starting a lie as a rumor, no matter that the rumor was not validated. One boss who vocally purported to be an LGBTQ+ ally decided to attack someone she didn’t like. She was demonstrating her heterosexual privilege. She said with a scandalous tone in her voice, “I heard that he was on a gay dating site; if substantiated, I would fire him on the spot! He’s not committed to work.” Again, the boss sets up another non sequitur for her own personal gain showing flagrant display of privilege and power.

Some attacks on victims are outrageous.  I have even heard first-hand when a boss criticized a colleague saying that “the only reason that the employee was upset by the boss cursing her was because she was sexually molested as a child. A few harsh words would not be a big deal to her had she not been sexually assaulted.”  This type of slander exists in places where institutionalized discrimination is rampant.  It also creates a toxic culture.  These are ways that privileged person uses malicious sabotage to gain authority or power over a competitor at work who happens to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or other minority.  I say, “Gossip is the unassuming little mouse that chews the rope that sends the chandelier crashing to the table.”  The damage is not realized until it hits people in the face at the most inopportune times.  At that point, the destruction has been done.  The workplace is hostile; people file complaints. -Or people leave the organization, taking their expertise and job experience with them.   In these cases the workplace and leader bear the reputation of being perpetuators of discrimination.

Cheerleaders kneel during the National Anthem during a university football game to bow in protest to racial injustice– Is this an act of disrespectful defiance to the status quo of privilege or is it an example of humility asking for equal rights and acceptance for people of color?  The answer lies in one’s ability to walk a mile in another person’s shoes, to see outside of himself/herself, and to take a moment of pause to ask, “What micro biases am I imposing onto the subjects of my criticism?”

Effective leaders should not allow their organization’s rigid belief systems and dictatorial policies to cause catastrophic change or allow rebellion to destroy the organizational culture.   Instead, effective leaders should constantly be mending the foundation of the organization and making pathways malleable and welcoming for all who enter. Diversity of employees, diversity thinking, and an inclusive culture can bring about organizational harmony to become a model organization in the global marketplace.

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