Over the years sexuality has been a taboo topic in the workplace. However, there has been growth in the LGBQTI community as more support has been made available. Coming out often meant dealing with social exclusion yet these days there is a sense of assurances rendered when one shares their journey.
As much as there is a positive stride in the direction of moving forward there is always closed mindedness that claws us back. In some workplaces it is still a challenge to look beyond someone’s sexuality. This often becomes a topic of discussion at the water cooler and most times it is a hot gossip topic at the canteen.
It becomes almost necessary to ask why someone’s sexuality should be a topic of discussion. The sexual orientation of staff members and colleagues does not need to be discussed. There is no compulsion to reveal this yet there is still mockery and ridicule when the information surfaces.
Be it the whispers and the sniggering behind someone’s back or the snarky comments there should be no room for discrimination of this nature. It is frustrating when colleagues think it is ok to assume a male who is gay will not be able to do a job that a straight man would do.
Likewise, it is also disappointing when statements are made towards a female based on her sexuality indicating she would be able to do something labour intensive due to her role in her relationship being masculine.
This small mindedness needs to end.
How long will we continue to differentiate between the different groups based on their sexuality? Why is this always something that needs to be determined before we establish how a task can be completed?
Over the years gender roles have been carved out resulting in the unnecessary insistence on how tasks must be completed. This is both unconventional and prevents us from progressing. The issue of sexuality does come back to different gender roles. It makes us aware that society has a mould of how men and woman ought to be. And if you are different from their version then you are irrelevant.
How should we address discrimination in the workplace towards someone’s sexuality?
Firstly, there should be a zero tolerance to discrimination of someone’s sexuality. This should be included in the code conduct. Staff members must be made aware that no form of bullying and harassment of this nature will be tolerated.
Including the point of sexuality in the code of conduct will highlight to employees that the company has a policy that prevents exclusion of employees based on their sexuality.
When handling issues raised about harassment based on someone’s sexual orientation HR must do so with discretion and sensitivity. Perhaps look at sending HR personnel on courses and training to enhance the emotional intelligence skills which will enable them to handle these matters appropriately.
Management are sometimes the route of the mockery. Educating and upskilling managers who might be old school in their thinking will allow staff members to seek trust from authoritative figures. This will not make them feel deflated when they need to raise concerns.
Steps must be taken to educate staff about the LGBTQI community. If we address discrimination in the workplace it will provide a working environment that is progressive and unbiased.
Devan Moonsamy runs the ICHAF Training Institute, and he is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, AND My Leadership Legacy Journal available from the ICHAF Training Institute.
ICHAF offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.
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