The Power of Words:
Respecting Identities in the Workplace

5 min

The Price of Exclusion:

According to a 2014 study from the Human Rights Campaign, 20% of LGBTQ Americans have left a job because they felt unwelcome. And a 2012 report from the Center for American Progress estimates that workplace discrimination costs American employers $64 billion every year.

Nobody should have to choose

between who they are

and where they work.

It's tempting to ignore questions of identity at work.

Some common reasons why people remain silent:

1. "It's no one's business."

But avoiding the subject altogether risks making it feel unwelcome. The Human Rights Campaign estimates that 35% of LGBTQ Americans lie about their personal lives to avoid making their colleagues uncomfortable.

2. "It's not relevant to work."

But our personal lives impact our professional performance. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 30% of LGBTQ employees report that hiding or explaining their identity is distracting, exhausting, and interrupts productivity.

3. "I don't want to make a mistake."

Gender, sex, sexual orientation – there are plenty of terms that nobody wants to get wrong. But our fear of failure shouldn't stand in the way of others' full expression of themselves.

The most productive teams foster mutual trust and respect.

Nobody wants to work with people who reject, exclude, or just plain ignore who they are.

Quiz 1 of 1

Your friend told you that she ran into her coworker while shopping, and met his partner. She says that she’s seen pictures of the two of them around his desk, but just assumed they were brothers. Now, she’s explaining that she won’t bring up his partner because she wants to “respect his privacy.” What’s something you could tell her?

Her coworker will probably appreciate her discretion, and thank her later in private.
Her exclusive behavior will probably shut him off from wanting to talk about his relationships anyway, so her approach is fine.
By ignoring her coworker’s relationship even when he is open about it, she may be unintentionally excluding a part of his identity.
By assuming that he and his partner were brothers, she failed to be open-minded and should be embarrassed.

Lesson complete