How to be a good LGBTQ+ ally at work

‘It’s about being thoughtful and understanding the power of a word can really empower others’

How to be a good LGBTQ+ ally at work

Despite the trials of the pandemic, it’s always a good time to work on becoming a good ally to LGBTQ+ people. And that commitment should go beyond Pride Month, says Donnebra McClendon, director of diversity equity and inclusion at Ceridian.

“It goes beyond wearing a T-shirt or wearing a button or participating in a Pride activity. For me, ally-ship happens every single day,” she says. “[We should] allow ourselves to be educated on the importance of being an ally every single day, to be brave enough to speak up for those things which are uncomfortable for others but really will isolate those or cause isolation by continuing it to happen.”

“Being a good ally is a lifelong process; it’s rooted in trust and it really does require a demonstration of consistency and accountability.”

Ceridian encourages inclusion by using the power of stories and experiences, says McClendon, who is based in in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“We create employee resource groups and the focus is to create a space where we educate, we celebrate and, most importantly, we strive to create a space of inclusion by encouraging others to tell their story. We use examples extensively and we also use analogies, and it really does help to bring spark to meaningful conversations.”

This also points to the importance of words and their role in implementing inclusive workplaces, she says.

“Language itself is powerful, the power of language is actually immeasurable. Inclusive language is about proactively choosing to avoid expressions that could result in exclusion of people. And because words have so much power, it’s really important that we are thoughtful and choosing the right words to empower those rather than to exclude. It’s about being thoughtful and understanding the power of a word can really empower others.”

It's also key to practise becoming a good listener, so that people can learn from others about their own identities, according to McClendon.

“Ask questions; bravely asking questions helps to create a safe space. It demonstrates vulnerability but it also demonstrates that, as a listener, I really am listening with the intent to learn something, I am truly engaged in the conversation because I’m asking followup questions. It does help to break down the walls when people are trying to create that safe space. I will always attempt to listen with the intent to learn.”

Employing pronouns in email signatures and online presences is also another excellent, and easy, way to demonstrate that you truly care about others, she says.

Donnebra McClendon

“Pronouns are linked to your identity… and using the right pronouns is a good demonstration of respect. When we think about creating an inclusive environment, it’s about teaching and treating each other with respect so pronouns are key to that,” says McClendon.

“Again, it really does demonstrate that you’re empathetic to being a good ally; that you recognize and that you understand that what one looks like cannot simply be represented in some generic form and it’s about giving people the respect to use the pronouns that they prefer.”

For HR departments wanting to take the first step in the ally-ship journey, it’s crucial to understand their role, says McClendon.

“HR people must give themselves the grace to learn from their mistakes and to know that this cannot be a burden of one. If we’re looking to create a more diverse and inclusive culture, it really does take time and it really must be a collaborative effort.”

“I always tell my HR people to be motivated by small wins, knowing that small wins will eventually lead to a collection of meaningful and sustainable changes. But they have to give themselves the grace to be able to know that it’s not a requirement to be an expert at all things. Just be steadfast in the learning and in the process and know that it will require a collective effort from the entire organization,” she says.

When organizations tie recognition efforts and DEI, this leads to better financial outcomes, found a recent survey.

And a major financial institution recently boosted its benefits for transgendered workers.

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