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Do You Perpetuate Harm Against Your LGBTQIA+ Employees — and Sabotage Your Organization's Success in the Process? Creating a truly inclusive and supportive workplace for LGBTQIA+ employees requires leaders to embark on their own journey of self-discovery and healing, leading to innovation and financial sustainability on an organizational level.

By Kelly L. Campbell Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • Inclusive leadership promotes innovation, employee loyalty, and business success.
  • Healing leaders' traumas is crucial for fostering workplace inclusivity.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In recent years, companies have taken steps to create more inclusive workplaces for LGBTQIA+ employees. But let's be real — many still face discrimination, aggression and a lack of genuine support from leadership.

One major roadblock? Low-conscious leaders who haven't done the inner work to heal their own traumas, judgments, and projections of pain. When leaders lack self-awareness and personal growth, it can manifest in subtle or overt ways that further marginalize LGBTQIA+ employees.

We've seen this most recently with the downplaying of support for the LGBTQIA+ community during Pride Month. Instead of standing up for the community and demonstrating inclusivity as a value, many brand leaders opted to operate from a place of fear. They feared the conservative backlash that might result in reduced profits, which signals to their LGBTQIA+ employees that money is more important than their humanity. When we choose short-term profit over people, everyone loses in the long run.

The toll of wounded leaders

Unhealed leaders are those who behave in ways that reveal their internal suffering. These so-called leaders might display unconscious biases, refuse to use someone's correct name or pronouns, crack insensitive jokes, or address a group of employees as though everyone is cisgender and straight.

A leader harboring internal judgments against trans employees, in particular, might misgender them or dismiss their concerns, making them feel like they don't belong and never will. They might allow homophobic or transphobic comments to slide or fail to enforce non-discrimination policies. This breeds fear, discomfort, and isolation for LGBTQIA+ individuals who may feel forced to hide who they are or stay on constant guard.

Perpetuating harmful stereotypes, like assuming LGBTQIA+ folks can't be professional or that their identity is a "lifestyle choice," reinforces false and damaging narratives. Failing to provide proper support and resources can make employees feel unseen, unheard, and unable to truly thrive at work. Ultimately, that impacts the bottom line.

Related: How to Be an Ally to the LGBTQ+ Community During Pride Month and Beyond

The path to healing is also the path to inclusivity

For leaders, embracing self-awareness and personal growth is key to creating an inclusive workplace and successful organization. This could mean seeking cerebral resources, attending workshops, working with a trauma-informed therapist to explore the shadow aspects of their behavior. Recognizing and challenging internalized homophobia or transphobia is critical for the healing process.

Leaders must examine their deeply held beliefs and unlearn harmful narratives that were likely absorbed in childhood.

Developing empathy and understanding through education and exposure is essential too. Learning about LGBTQIA+ experiences, engaging in open dialogue, and actively listening to diverse perspectives can help leaders better support and advocate for these employees.

Creating a supportive environment for open discourse and learning is vital. This could involve advocating for employee resource groups (ERGs), facilitating curious discussions, or committing to ongoing inclusivity workshops organization-wide. By fostering open communication and continuous learning, leaders can create a culture where LGBTQIA+ folks feel safer to share their perspectives.

Implementing inclusive healthcare benefits, gender-neutral facilities, and clear anti-discrimination policies is a tangible way for leaders to walk the talk on inclusivity. Not only do these measures provide practical support, but they also send a powerful message that LGBTQIA+ employees are truly valued and respected from the top down.

Related: The First Openly LGBTQ+ Person to Conquer the 7 Summits Reveals How 5 Lessons Learned on His Climbs Helped Him Grow a Business to $5 Million in Sales

The role of allies and advocates

For allies and advocates, recognizing the impact of low-conscious leadership and acknowledging the harm caused by aggressions and lack of support is step one. Speaking up and holding leaders accountable for instances of bias or discrimination while advocating for inclusive policies is essential for driving positive change.

But it's not just about calling out bad behavior—allies and advocates must actively listen to and elevate LGBTQIA+ voices to ensure their perspectives are heard and needs are addressed.

Fostering a culture of allyship and solidarity is crucial for sustaining progress. Allies can educate themselves, call out discrimination, and be vocal and visible in their workplaces and communities. By embodying inclusivity and solidarity, they can inspire others and create a ripple effect that will turn the tide toward inclusivity as the norm, not the exception.

Inclusive workplaces are more generative

If you believe healthy company culture is important for productivity — and that innovation thrives in collaboration — there's nothing more effective you can do for your organization's bottom line than to heal and challenge the rigidity of your own beliefs.

If you want to lead a more fiscally sustainable organization, start by confronting and integrating your own trauma. Only then can you cultivate the self-awareness and empathy required to create an environment where all employees can truly thrive. To foster a culture of mutuality, it's on all of us to hold each other accountable.

The business case for inclusive workplaces extends far beyond simply checking a box or avoiding legal troubles. When employees feel valued and empowered, it unlocks a wellspring of creativity, innovation, and engagement that directly impacts the bottom line. Study after study has shown that diverse, inclusive teams outperform homogeneous ones as they draw from a wider range of perspectives, experiences, and problem-solving approaches.

An environment where people feel psychologically supported to share their ideas without fear of discrimination breeds more risk-taking, innovative thinking, and, ultimately, better products and services that meet the needs of an increasingly diverse customer base. If that wasn't enough, inclusive cultures result in increased employee loyalty, lower turnover costs, and a stronger employer brand – critical factors in attracting and retaining top talent.

So, prioritizing inclusivity for LGBTQIA+ employees isn't just ethically right; it's a powerful business imperative for any organization looking to gain a competitive edge through the rich ideas and dedication of its entire workforce.

Kelly L. Campbell

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Trauma-Informed Leadership Coach

Kelly L. Campbell (they/she) speaks and writes about "The New TLC"—trauma, leadership, and consciousness. The author of HEAL to LEAD, Kelly is a Trauma-Informed Leadership Coach to emerging and established leaders who know they are meant for more.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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