A welcoming and safe workplace for LGBTQ employees is more than a rainbow flag and Pride cupcakes. With competition for talent increasing, it’s a crucial factor in recruiting and retaining highly qualified staff.

According to data from the Human Rights Campaign report, A Workplace Divided: Understanding the Climate for LGBTQ Workers Nationwide, highlight the impact of an unfriendly work environment, 31% of LGBTQ employees surveyed felt unhappy or depressed at work and 28% felt distracted. The primary causes for these feelings include feeling passed over for promotions and opportunities because they were LGBTQ, hearing jokes about transgender, lesbian or gay people, saying or implying that they should dress more femininely or masculinely, and being exhausted from hiding their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Understanding the Importance of Inclusion

These factors don’t just impact the individual employee; they contribute to lower higher absenteeism, turnover and costs. The HRC data verifies the impact:

  • 20% of LGBTQ employees have stayed out of work because of an unwelcoming environment
  • 20% looked for another job
  • 10% left a job because the work environment was not accepting of LGBTQ employees

Conversely, accepting and supportive organizations have a competitive advantage. The HRC data shows that 25% of LGBTQ employees stay in a job primarily before the work environment is very accepting. It also enhances organizational reputation with straight and binary employees. A recent CNBC-SurveyMonkey poll found that 78% of employees say it’s important to work for an organization that prioritizes diversity and inclusion. Early-career employees are particularly interested in being part of an organization that exemplifies their own personal values.

Finally, the way your organization treats its LGBTQ employees may transfer to how you treat LGBTQ patients. If patient experience is one of your organizational values, your staff must engage in the behaviors consistent with delivering a positive experience for everyone.

Creating a Culture of LGBTQ Acceptance

Increasing acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQ staffers is most effective when it starts at the top, but even one employee can influence the culture. The HRC outlines four tasks for leaders, managers and individuals:

Executives & Senior Staff

  1. Reflect on your obligation to the organization when it comes to recognizing LGBTQ inclusion
  2. Evaluate your personal comfort speaking specifically and directly to LGBTQ inclusion and utilize partners to bolster your confidence
  3. Assess the ways you can communicate about corporate inclusion values
  4. Address knowledge gaps in the evolving vocabulary of LGBTQ inclusion


  1. Be proactive in leading conversations about unconscious bias
  2. Equip teams with a vocabulary to identify unconscious bias and talk to each other and you about experiences with it
  3. Be intentional about inclusion in with team-building activities
  4. Guard against events that are focused on one point of bonding such as parenting, happy hours, etc.

Individual Employees

  1. Understand what informed your earliest impressions and beliefs about LGBTQ identity
  2. Think about how you express that at work
  3. Define what respect means for yourself and others and articulate how you demonstrate that in workplace
  4. Be more inclusive and welcoming with mirroring– if your colleague asks about your weekend, ask about theirs

Treating all employees with dignity and respect is a core value for every healthcare organization. Operationalizing that value is a crucial step toward strengthening organization reputation, recruiting and retaining quality employees and delivering excellent and equitable patient care.

The HRC information cited in this article is Copyright © 2021 Human Rights Campaign Foundation. All Rights Reserved. Reproduced with permission. Any further use without the express written consent of Human Rights Campaign Foundation is prohibited.