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The Defence Guide for Commanders and Managers is an excellent start for how you can create an inclusive environment for gay, lesbian and bisexual personnel. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people are often fearful about letting others know about their sexual orientation. This can stem from what may seem like a harmless joke in the workplace, to broader villification, hatred and bullying.
Creating inclusive culture
A Commander and Supervisor sets the tone and culture for their unit, and this can heavily positively influence the level of inclusion that occurs in the workplace. If any person doesn't feel included, it impacts on productivity and team cohesion. No one can tolerate such a loss of capability.
Not everyone has the capability or confidence to stand up for themselves. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people can go to extraordinary lengths to hide their sexual orientation. This can occupy a significant amount of their thinking each day and every day.
Ask yourself, what indicators do you have in your workplace to show that it is inclusive and that you expect inclusive behaviour. Are you just relying on Defence Policies to create the culture that is needed to ensure everyone is included?
Lesbian, gay and bisexual people can experience great fear about what might happen if they disclose their sexual orientation. There are countless examples of gay and lesbian personnel being harassed or bullied online. In 2010, a number of Defence personnel were involved in a gay-hate Facebook Group.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual people who experience this fear are not going to complain if they are bullied, or experience non-inclusive behaviour. It is far more likely that they will go to even greater effort to hide their sexual orientation from work.
This is a major issue for Defence where people post every two to three years. We ask new personnel about their family situation and its usually one of the first topics of conversation that happens in the workplace.
A leader can take positive steps to ensure that everyone feels included and to set the expected standard for inclusion in the workplace. Do you speak about LGBTI inclusion, or any other form of inclusion when you address your team? Do you participate in diversity initiatives and encourage your team to learn about people who are different from themselves? Do you use language that makes no assumptions about someone's sexual orientation?
Diversity initiatives provide an opportunity to have conversations in the workplace about differences between people and to potentially learn something that will help to improve team cohesion. The level and tone of those conversations, and the unit personality that results is set by leaders at all levels.