First published on LinkedIn.
Happy Pride Month, everyone! This week I asked all of you the following:
I ask this question because many of us mask or cover aspects of ourselves at work. In a survey of 3,000+ respondents spanning 10 different industries, 61% of respondents reported covering aspects of themselves at work (Deloitte). In particular, 83% of LGBTQ+ individuals reported covering at work compared to 79% of Black/African-American employees, 67% of women of color, just to name a few.
Imagine what it means when we add Intersectionality! For Black/African-American LGBTQ+, they face high levels of discrimination. In fact, 78% of individuals from the group report that discrimination has affected their ability to be hired, while 55% of white LGBTQ+ respondents reported the same (NBC).
And for the longest time "covering" was considered the norm – oftentimes described as being professional in order to assimilate within the company culture and be accepted by the majority. But in the last couple of years we've discovered that we're asking employees to leave a part of themselves at the door before they "enter" the workplace (I put it in quotations because these days we virtually enter, too).
So what are the consequences? Well this leads to a work environment that doesn't feel safe and people won't feel comfortable sharing information. This can ultimately lead to a loss of creativity and innovation (Forbes). If an employee is constantly considering how they can "stay within the lines" and follow the rules, there won't be many opportunities for growth.
As a leader, what can I do?
STEP UP: You have to be willing to be courageous and step up to the plate. It can be daunting and you may sweat a little...but it's okay to be uncomfortable. We have to embrace that feeling! And it's okay to make mistakes along the way. This is your chance to be vulnerable and show that it is indeed a safe space. This is also described as "lead by example."
CALL IN: What we don't want to do is call people out. That automatically puts them in a defensive position and they become closed or shut down. We want to call people in, highlight their actions and talk about how we can be better – these are known as 'teachable moments.'
Consider what it means to be an A.L.L.Y. – what are your strengths and opportunities to Step Up for your colleagues? How can you Call In behavior and create moments of understanding?
This month we also observe Juneteenth (June 19). How will you observe this latest official national holiday this year? If you want some books to read, podcasts to listen to or movies/documentaries to watch this month that will provide further context on Black/African-American lived experiences, check out this list of resources I've curated over the years. Enjoy and feel free to share! Also, please be sure to check out my book, a guide to true authentic self at work.
Until next month... Be well and stay safe & healthy!