How to Create an Inclusive Environment for LGBTQIA+ Colleagues

June 01, 2024

What does it take to create a more affirming, inclusive, and welcoming work environment for LGBTQIA+ and ally employees? 

People want to feel that they can bring their authentic selves to work without fear of discrimination or social isolation. According to recent studies, when LGBTQIA+ colleagues feel unwelcome at work, they are:  

  • 20% more likely to be absent  
  • 20% more likely to look for another job 
  • 10% more likely to leave the organization 

To help foster a more welcoming environment for LGBTQIA+ colleagues, it’s important to make inclusion more visible at every level. Here are some examples: 

What Senior Leaders Can Do: 

  • Evaluate your personal comfort level speaking specifically and directly to LGBTQIA+ inclusion. 
  • Reflect on your obligation to the organization when it comes to recognizing LGBTQIA+ inclusion.  
  • Assess your communication tools. Do team leaders have the tools they need to promote corporate inclusion values and address knowledge gaps in the evolving vocabulary of LGBTQIA+ inclusion? Do you seek outside support to bolster comfort? 

What Mid-Level Managers Can Do: 

  • Lead conversations about unconscious bias proactively. 
  • Equip teams with a vocabulary around spotting unconscious bias and talking about their experiences with each other and you, their manager. 
  • Be intentional with team-building activities to ensure inclusion. (Ensure that they are not over-reliant on one point of bonding such as parenting, happy hours, etc.) 

What Individuals Can Do: 

  • Ask yourself what informed your earliest impressions and beliefs about LGBTQIA+ identity and how you express that at work. 
  • Define respect for yourself and others and how you demonstrate that in the workplace.  

What happens when organizations and individuals go beyond policies of inclusion to truly cultivate an inclusive culture? They gain the focus and energy that comes from people bringing their full selves to work. Here are additional ways to support LGBTQIA+ colleagues and loved ones. 

What We All Can Do: 

  • Be an ally. Publicly show your support. Ensure that you are supporting others by affirming their identity, using their pronouns, and being committed to providing a non-judgmental and safe space for all.  
  • Find common ground. When discussing relationships, marriage, parenting, and family, focus the conversation on common ground, beliefs, hopes, and dreams 
  • Validate when others share. Hold in confidence and validate another person’s feelings when they share issues around orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. 
  • Acknowledge and ask for help. When talking with someone who is LGBTQIA+, acknowledge and ask for help when not certain how to talk about something. 
  • Ask and listen. Check-in with your colleagues and loved ones. If they show any warning signs of suicide, be direct and ask. For more guidance on steps you can take to “be the one to help save a life,” visit
  • LGBTQIA+ Terminology. Knowing the right words and phrases to say is an important part of the work towards LGBTQIA+ equality. A glossary of terms is a great way to advance your competency.  
  • Seek support. Reach out and collaborate with your colleagues, loved ones, or professionals for additional help. 

If you’re not sure where to start, turn to your Assistance Program. To access resources and confidential services, visit Member Support. If you are an organization looking for support on how to foster a more equitable and inclusive environment, visit Organizational Consulting.  

Sources: NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE, Human Rights Campaign Foundation, A Workplace Divided Report Out, and Equal Ally Guiding Behaviors