Archived Newsletters

October 2004, Dialogue & Inclusion

By February 2, 2016 No Comments

Simma’s 10 Suggestions for LGBT Inclusion

What can you do if you are an employer, or leader of an organization to create the kind of inclusive environment where talented LGBT people will want to stay and help your organization in its success? Here are some suggestions that come from not only LGBT people but from reviewing best practices of organizations like Ford, IBM and Lucent.

Know that LGBT people are not looking for special treatment but want the same protections everyone else gets. That also means do not hire someone who is not qualified just because they are LGBT. Like any other employee if someone is inappropriate, or not working, take corrective action. There are many other talented and qualified LGBT people.

Don’t assume that being an LGBT person means they have a “different lifestyle” and stop yourself and other people from using that term. LGBT come in all colors, ethnic backgrounds, have families, and people they love. They have all kinds of interests, recreational activities and lifestyles.

Be clear that you have a zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination and any other anti-LGBT behavior, as well as harassment of any other specific groups. As a leader you have to set an example and model the behavior you expect from all of your employees in terms of harassment and discrimination.

Include sexual orientation and gender expression and identity in your diversity mission statement. Make sure all employees are aware of that statement and your written policies. Be sure and include your policies and expected behavior supporting diversity and specifically LGBT employees in orientation programs for new hires.

Support and encourage LGBT affinity groups, and create a communication channel between the group and senior leadership. Attend an LGBT affinity group meeting and encourage others to do so. Affinity groups should be open to all employees who want to understand people who are different than themselves.

Respect everyone’s gender self- identity and refer to everyone with the name and pronoun they prefer. If you don’t know, ask politely. Let them know you are not trying to offend but want to show respect. On invitations for company social events use the word guest next to the employees name rather than spouse.

Include sexual orientation issues in your diversity training. Don’t leave it up to LGBT people to educate co-workers.

Respect confidentiality, and do not try to get an LGBT person to come up. They will decide if and when they are ready. The fact that they confided in you shows that they trust and respect you.

Attend and support LGBT community events and don’t send only LGBT people as your representatives. Often people break past their biases by having direct positive contact with someone who is different than them.

Listen with an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask questions and make mistakes. It’s the best way to learn.

Issue of the Month: Dialogue as a Communication Tool

by Kate Berardo and Simma Lieberman

“Consider any complex, potentially volatile issue – Arab relations, the problems between Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians, corporate decision making, getting control of the U.S. deficit or health care costs, labor/management relations and so on. At the root of the issue we are likely to find communication failures and cultural misunderstandings that prevent the parties from framing the problem in a common way, and thus make it impossible to deal with the problem constructively.” Edgar H. Schein, Professor MIT Sloan School of Management

To change a situation or environment or constructively deal with any issue, there first needs to be dialogue. What is dialogue and when should it be used? Trainers Simma Lieberman and Kate Berardo discuss the basics of dialogue and it’s power as a communication tool to allow parties to frame a problem in a common way.

What is Dialogue?

Dialogue is a communication tool that allows people to understand other viewpoints without pitting themselves against different perspectives. In dialogue, there is no defending of opinions, and no counterpoints. Instead, you let someone talk and present their viewpoint. You let them finish their idea without interrupting or asking questions. You listen to understand, not to defend your own point of view. Your goal is to get in their head, and understand their perspective, not to prove they’re wrong and you’re right. When it’s your turn, you talk and are allowed to finish your thoughts. And here’s the key: when you give your viewpoint, you don’t give your viewpoint relative to theirs. Dialogue is not a back and forth discussion, not a debate or rebuttal. It’s a chance to frame a problem collectively by both independently voicing your perspectives on an issue.

When should dialogue be used?

Dialogue should be used when, as Edward Schein points out, two parties have framed an issue differently. When individuals or groups have different perspectives and see issues differently, dialogue can be employed as a effective communication tool to help the parties understand each other’s point of view. Only from this common understanding can change and resolution grow.

Simma Lieberman

Author Simma Lieberman

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