LGBT+ workers experience higher levels of conflict at work

Higher proportions of LGB+ and trans workers have experienced harassment at work

More than four in 10 LGB+ workers have experienced a work-based conflict in the last year, with this proportion rising to 55% for trans workers.

These are the findings of a survey by the CIPD that found LGBT+ workers generally experience higher levels of conflict, lower levels of psychological safety and lower job satisfaction.

It draws on data from the HR body’s UK Working Lives survey and a separate survey of trans workers, supported by academics at the University of Bath. (LGB+ refers to respondents to the former, hence the use of this acronym rather than LGBT for those figures).

The combined research has today been released in a new research report entitled Inclusion at work: Perspectives on LGBT+ working lives.

Some of the conflict situations experienced by LGB+ workers included being humiliated or undermined, or discriminatory behaviour.

In comparison, 29% of heterosexual workers experienced conflict over the same 12 months.

One in eight trans workers said they had experienced unwanted sexual attention at work, while 2% had experienced sexual assault. Half of those who responded to the survey said conflicts remained unresolved.

Almost one in five (18%) of trans workers said they felt psychologically unsafe at work, that they did not feel able to be accepted, valued, or to voice concerns. Sixteen per cent of LGB+ workers felt this way, and 10% of heterosexual workers.

Both LGB+ and heterosexual workers experienced similar levels of job satisfaction, with 66% reporting as “somewhat” to “very satisfied” at work.

A slightly higher proportion of LGB+ workers said they were dissatisfied at work, however (19% compared to 15% of heterosexual workers).

More than half of trans workers said they felt satisfied at work, but 33% said they felt “somewhat” to “very dissatisfied”.

Melanie Green, research adviser for the CIPD, said that employees feeling unable to express themselves can have a negative impact on their working relationships and engagement with work.

“It’s particularly concerning to see how many LGBT+ workers have experienced conflict and that more often than not, these conflicts are not resolved,” she said.

“This must stop. Everyone has the right to feel safe, to be themselves and to flourish at work. Employers must do more to support these groups and create inclusive cultures that have zero tolerance of bullying and harassment of any kind.”

Green said that employers needed to recognise the “unique challenges” faced by LGBT+ workers, treating people as individuals rather than applying a one-size-fits-all approach.

“For instance, [they must] recognise that a lesbian will face very different challenges to a trans person at work.

Employers must treat people as individuals rather than assuming that any general measures to address LGBT+ as a homogenous group will sufficiently meet a spectrum of diverse needs. If we are to truly celebrate and support individuality we must start with the individual,” she added.

The CIPD also advises organisations consider the following to support LGBT+ staff:

  • Ensure LGBT+ staff have “voice mechanisms” so they can highlight any problems and suggest solutions
  • Lead by example with senior sponsorship of employee resource groups
  • Encourage company-wide learning and conversations on inclusion
  • Train line managers in the support needed by different groups
  • Create safe spaces and networks where these groups can come together, with allies, to support each other (only 40% of survey respondents said their organisation had an LGBT+ staff network).

Dr Luke Fletcher, associate professor at the University of Bath’s School of Management, said: “During the pandemic we’ve seen a lot of blanket changes come into place to protect employee wellbeing, but businesses must also think about how best to adapt broader policies and practices to specific minority groups such as those within the LGBT+ spectrum.

“Being proactive on inclusion sends a clear message to current and future employees on the values that your organisation has regarding how it supports its people.”

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