Living near and often working in Chicago, I always feel we do a good job embracing and celebrating our LGBT community. I feel proud of this. Sometimes I delude myself into thinking that we don’t need to talk about it anymore, that it is a no brainer, and that being LGBT is accepted as what it is, normal. Then I hear stories from clients about where they are from or about why they are not out in their workplace and I realize we still have miles to go. It makes me ask the question, “what more can we do?” The most simple, elegant answer is to make sure that we celebrate all the ways we are made, especially in the workplace.
Most straight folks I know talk about acceptance of their LBGT colleagues. That is a good start. But to really embrace and celebrate is different. Let me explain what I mean.
When I get to know clients I love hearing about their parents, significant others, their spouses, and their families. Often, when they talk about the people they love most, their whole being lights up. I have a client who is a West Point graduate and was a leader in the Air Force. He is a commanding, smart, “tough as nails”, and at times very intimidating man. But when he talks about his wife and kids, he brims with joy and it seems to immediately remind him the reason he works so hard in a difficult and demanding job. When clients talk about their kids I can see the love they have for them and it makes them happy to talk about them. Even when their kids are having problems and it is tough going at home, talking about them with colleagues seems to relieve the worry for many. These connections are not distractions, they are additive and they are part of what makes most of us who we are.
I think of all that comes from these families, the joy, worry, passion, angst, and love, as energy. Energy that gets us out of bed, gives us purpose, lights up a dreary workday, and periodically, on a bad day, reminds us of why we don’t quit our jobs. I also happen to believe that our families, whatever they look like, have the ability to make us more empathic, caring, inspired and motivated at work, especially when who we are and who we love is completely accepted and celebrated. We need all this energy to bring our best to work and life, and anything that diminishes it, or who we are, is not good.
Some clients do this well. They make a point of celebrating their employees through family friendly policies of all types, and being public about supporting LGBT employees. Celebration involves both words and actions. Celebration requires that leaders at all levels speak and act openly in support of their LGBT colleagues. It requires that if a disparaging term is used to describe a person who is LGBT in a quiet, one-on-one meeting, that no matter the discomfort, we openly share our concern and dislike about the other person’s use of the term. Celebration requires us to stand up, speak up and delight in all our amazing ability to love and be loved.
Welcome to Moira's blog. I write a (mostly) monthly post about the work of building better work places: people strategies, systems, teams and leaders.