LGBT+ employees still feel more lonely and less appreciated

LGBT+ employees are still hiding themselves at work and feel more isolated and less appreciated by their bosses.

That’s according to new research looking at three European markets – Germany, Poland and the UK – and three high-growth economies –  China, India and Mexico.

The researchers say their study proves employers can’t take the same approach to promoting diversity and inclusion in every country. Instead, they should tailor it to local cultures.

Moreover, they warn that employees in groups that are ‘othered’ at work are often less likely to feel trusted, respected or connected to coworkers and managers. That alienation has – in many cases – risen since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Europe

In Germany, the researchers found that LGBT+ individuals feel less equal in the workplace. 

36% of LGBT+ German professionals said it was hard to talk to colleagues about how life has changed as a result of COVID-19. That’s by comparison to just 13% of their straight, cisgender colleagues.

The researchers said: ‘This finding is a signal flare that LGBTQ employees in Germany have to “cover” at work, or downplay an important aspect of their identity – in this case, sexual orientation or gender identity – to better achieve acceptance or to progress in their careers.’

Commenting on the situation, German diversity expert Albert Kehrer claimed ‘companies haven’t caught up with society’.

In Poland, LGBT+ employees have faced an increasingly toxic debate about their sexuality and identity in national and local politics.

The researchers found LGBT+ Poles are less likely to regularly feel respected (39% LGBT+ vs 55% others) or appreciated (25% vs 41%) at work.

The researchers commented: ‘The increasing threat of harassment and violence for LGBTQ people in Poland, has made new work from home policies under COVID-19 a relief for many LGBTQ professionals in the country.

‘But it has also led to further isolation for many community members who can’t safely access traditional spaces of support.’

Growth markets

The study also found that LGBT+ professionals in India are more likely than non-LGBT+ colleagues to regularly feel lonely or alienated at work.

They’re also more likely to say that it’s very or extremely difficult to talk to coworkers about how their lives have changed due to COVID-19 (78% vs 33%).

Meanwhile nearly two in five LGBT+ employees say that, as a result of COVID-19, they have changed their behavior at work to avoid drawing attention to their sexual orientation.

Likewise, the researchers say LGBT+ employees they interviewed in Mexico ‘experience othering’. This may be overt prejudice to pressure to pass as straight.

They are less likely than non-LGBTQ employees to regularly feel appreciated at work (27% vs. 50%).

‘Cultural competency is crucial’

The report – Belonging Matters Everywhere – comes from nonprofit think tank Coqual, formerly called The Center for Talent Innovation.

Lanaya Irvin is Coqual’s president and has personal life experience as a black, LGBT+ executive.

She said: ‘We’ve known for a long time that corporate culture determines whether companies can fully activate talent in the workplace. Now, with this new research, we’ve provided the hard data and insights to show that belonging brings tremendous value for employees and companies doing business globally.’

Meanwhile Pooja Jain-Link, Coqual executive vice president, urged a culture-specific approach to improving inclusion: ‘Though belonging is a universal human need, the ways to build it vary by culture.

‘Leaders cannot assume, based on their own experiences in their home country or in other markets, that they understand who the insiders and the outsiders are in an individual market and what kinds of approaches will drive a greater sense of belonging.

‘What works best in India, for example, may not work as well in China. Cultural competency is crucial.’

The researchers studied 7,000 employees in seven nations and conducted focus groups and interviews to create their report.


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