Homophobia at Work

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Problem Identification
"The social organization of work is the set of relations among people at work" and within any organization, gay and lesbian people account for approximately 10 percent of the workforce (Hodson & Sullivan, 2002, p. 4). "Unlike most other minority groups, however, homosexuals are not readily visible, and many have chosen to remain invisible, especially at work, because they fear the negative consequences that might result from revealing their sexual orientation" (Hunt, 1995, p. 149). For gays and lesbians coming out is not worth risking exclusion, career damage, or even being the butt of jokes and anti-gay remarks. Along with this fear there are also the added obstacles of homophobia in the workplace, which most managers and human resource professionals know little about. The reason that they know little is because gay and lesbian people, as well as most forms of discrimination against them, are invisible. It is this invisibility, which is at the heart of the problem, and which causes most managers to assume that sexual orientation is not an issue in their organization. "Homophobia – irrational fear and hatred of gay people – underlies a spectrum of emotions and misconceptions that are destructive in the workplace and in society at large" (Winfield & Spielman, 1995, p. 17). It is this homophobia that can cause gay and lesbian people to have difficulty adapting to the workplace culture. Regrettably, homophobia appears to be the result of stereotypes and prejudices and according to Norma Carr-Ruffino some reasons given for prejudice against gay and lesbian persons include: ·I believe in traditional gender and sex roles,

·I fee uncomfortable with gay persons. I'm not sure what to say or how to act, ·Maybe they'll come on to me,
·Maybe I will get AIDS be being around them,
·I have to show disapproval of gays so people will know for sure I am not one. Prejudices do not only affect gay and lesbian people, those who hold these prejudices are also affected. Sexual orientation has been discovered to impact employee performance. "When managers send signals or messages that it is not okay to be gay in the workplace, and they do, they negatively impact performance" (Powers & Ellis, 1995, p. 4). Whenever a manger or coworker tells a homophobic joke, the message is sent that it is not okay to be yourself and when these messages are received, many employees feel forced to hide their sexual identity. This hiding begins to take a tremendous amount of psychological and physical energy, causing these employees to divert their energies away from work performance to protect themselves by covering up facts, keeping low profiles, and lying. When people feel excluded, they are much less inclined to devote energy toward making the organization successful. Most of the difficulties inherent in introducing sexual orientation issues into workplace settings are because of misconceptions held by heterosexual people about those who are gay or lesbian. A few of these misconceptions include: ·Being gay is a choice,

·Gay lifestyle is immoral because it is forbidden by the Bible, ·All gays have AIDS, and if we let them work here, we'll get AIDS too, ·People who associate with gays are probably gay themselves. Accurate information and the right attitude can go a long way to bridging the gap when employees are unsure of how to behave in a particular situation. Unless an organization is well educated on the issues of sexual orientation and their impact on workplace performance and possess the skills and resources required to effectively manage these issues, organizations will not get optimal performance from the employees within the organization. Analysis

The millions of U.S. gay and lesbian employees are a group of knowledgeable consumers. They are also a group to quickly spread word throughout the sexual minority community about companies that have and do not have practices and policies addressing...
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