Over the past 48 hours, a number of my clients have requested guidance on how to effectively support their LGBTQ employees grieve in the aftermath of the Orlando Shooting that has rocked the nation. For those of us who are LGBTQ, this most recent attack on our communities has sent a jolting reminder of the very real and pervasive violence that is a part of the LGBTQ Movement’s collective history and existing reality. It also proves how much more work remains for many of us to transform hearts and minds to become more accepting and affirming of LGBTQ people.
Before I join my colleagues in demanding policy solutions to prevent this kind of tragedy from taking place again, I want to first support my clients and other allies in confidently cultivating workplaces that empower staff to grieve, heal, and build upon our collective resiliency to fight harder than we’ve ever fought before to proudly be who we are and love without apology.
For business leaders interested in enhancing existing support structures for employees to heal, consider taking the following actions:
1. Issue a Statement. Leverage your leadership position and issue a public statement on behalf of your company denouncing the acts of violence targeting LGBTQ Latinx people. The Orlando Shooting targeted LGBTQ people during Pulse’s Latin Night. The people that were murdered that night were primarily LGBTQ people of color, and this fact must be acknowledged and remembered. This hate crime amplifies the interesectionality of sexual orientation, gender identity, and race/ethnicity. Conversations about intersectionality must be encouraged, for leaving it out of the frame is akin to erasure.
2. Share Employee Resources. Understandably many of us are grieving no matter if we are LGBTQ people or allies. As a way to prevent bereaved employees from being the isolated elephants in the room, it’s critical to proactively offer available onsite and virtual resources like employee assistance programs, crisis hotlines, and other support resources like grievance counselors that may already exist for your staff. If you aren’t sure where to start, consider some of the resources the Orlando LGBTQ Center has created in response to this tragedy. Acknowledging that grief is inevitable, and empowering staff to get the support necessary to heal will help foster a healthy and more productive workforce for all employees.
3. Support the Pulse Victims Fund. Encourage your employees to pool together resources, and make a charitable donation on behalf of your company for the Equality Florida’s Pulse Victims Fund. In partnership with the National Center for Victims of Crime, Equality Florida will ensure that every penny raised will be correctly and quickly disbursed to the victims, families, and communities affected by the shooting. The fund aims to raise $5 million by Thursday, June 16, and already has raised nearly $4 million thanks to the generous support of over 82,000 people.
4. Honor Pride Month & Educate the Workforce. If your company has a LGBTQ employee resource group (ERG), consider co-sponsoring an educational event to acknowledge the historical oppression and violence LGBTQ communities have experienced, and the critical policy victories LGBTQ communities have won over the past 40 years. If your company doesn’t have an LGBTQ ERG, sponsor an educational event in honor of Pride Month (celebrated every June) as a way to educate allies and other staff in the workplace. The event can honor the struggles and contributions of the modern day LGBTQ movement including mention of the Stonewall Riots and the political marches that followed to protest the violence and discrimination LGBTQ people still endure today.
5. Oppose Anti-LGBTQ Legislation. Over the past year there were over 200+ anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in state legislatures all across the country. Many of these bills were crafted to roll back hard fought legal protections for LGBTQ people. Business leaders have the power to take a persuasive stance against such legislation simply by reminding legislators that discriminating against LGBTQ people in the workplace is a costly endeavor that places businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Consider working in alliance with organizations like the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in defeating legislation that would hurt the bottom line. By opposing anti-LGBTQ legislation, you are standing up for your LGBTQ employees, clients, vendors and consumers, and you are creating a powerful legacy by promoting equity.
While our collective mourning won’t end overnight, the initial sting can become less acute with effective leadership. When business leaders acknowledge tragedies like the Orlando shooting, create structures of support, and encourage all employees to take the necessary time to heal, we can return to business as usual. Perhaps we can even return to more exceptional business practices that are compassionate and equitable, especially for those of us that may not feel welcomed to bring our whole selves to work.
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