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How Your Business Can Fight Bullying for Home-Based and Office-Based Workers (Spirit Day)

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Today is Spirit Day, a day set aside to speak out against bullying of LGBTQ people at school and in the workplace. Observed since 2010, and promoted by GLAAD, the day also honors LGBTQ victims of suicide. 

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Workplace bullying can be a huge problem for members of the LGBTQ community. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Going purple, for example by wearing purple clothes or temporarily changing your website or app colors, is a way to visibly show solidarity with this community. But there's a lot more you can do, too.

In this article, we’ll share stats on the bullying and discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community. We'll also look at key ways to fight bullying in the workplace all year round.

What Is Spirit Day?

Wondering what Spirit Day is? Here's how it started. In 2010, Canadian Brittany McMillan, a teenager at the time, wanted to respond to a spate of suicides of gay students.

Spirit Day was first celebrated on October 20, 2010. It's been observed on the third Thursday in October since 2013. The day was supported by GLAAD from the start, Spirit Day is so named because the purple stripe on the LGBTQ flag is said to represent "spirit".

LGBTQ Bullying Facts and Statistics in 2021

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Even with people working from home, LGBTQ bullying is still a problem (Image source: Envato Elements)

The statistics on bullying of LGBTQ folks in schools don't make comfortable reading. For example, according to GLAAD's Spirit Day page:

  • 70% of LGBTQ students have reported verbal harassment. A similar percentage have been subjected to homophobic remarks from teachers because of their gender expression
  • 49% of LGBTQ students have experienced cyberbullying
  • More than 53% of LGBTQ students don't report incidents because they don't think they'll get help
  • More than half of trans and non-binary students have seriously considered suicide

The bullying statistics in workplaces aren't any better. A 2021 report from Catalyst shows that:

  • 20% of LGBTQ folks have faced discrimination when applying for jobs
  • 22% of LGBTQ Americans face inequities in pay and promotion prospects
  • 10% of LGBTQ folks have left jobs because of unwelcoming work environments

The report also shows that LGBTQ employees are subjected to biased jokes, and often don't feel comfortable being themselves. And trans employees face difficulties with bathroom accessibility, misgendering, and inappropriate and intrusive questions.

Bullying statistics from People Management suggest that LGBTQ employees face "alarmingly high" levels of abuse and sexual harassment. That hasn't changed with more people working from home.

Indeed, cyberbullying is a big issue, affecting almost 16% of employees according to Paychex

10 Steps Your Business Can Take Action to Combat Workplace Bullying

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Your company can take steps to prevent bullying. (Image source: Envato Elements)

The bullying facts above show that it's more important than ever to take steps to fight workplace bullying. Here are some steps your company can take on GLAAD's Spirit Day and beyond:

1. Create an Anti-Bullying Policy

As a company, fighting bullying of your LGBTQ and other employees starts at the policy level. So, the first step is to create an anti-bullying policy and make all employees aware of it. Ideally, an anti-bullying policy will include:

  • a definition and examples of workplace bullying
  • the rights and responsibilities of employees in relation to bullying
  • the procedure for reporting and dealing with instances of workplace bullying
  • an assurance of confidentiality and protection from retaliation

The policy should also cover cyberbullying and the company's right to check IT communications to prevent it. Sometimes bullying can cross over into harassment, which is illegal in many places. This article from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) explains the difference. 

2. Enforce the Policy

An anti-bullying policy isn't much use unless you actually enforce it. Your LGBTQ employees need to know that if they report workplace bullying, they'll be believed, and the policy will protect them. That means showing there's a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and cyberbullying throughout the company.

3. Model the Right Behavior

Creating an inclusive workplace that bans bullying has to start from the top. The C-suite and top management have to treat people equitably, regardless of gender identity or gender expression. That'll show everyone that it's important to you to create a workplace free of bullying for your LGBTQ employees.

Read more about inclusive workplaces here:

4. Provide Training

Not all employees will be clear about the line between harmless banter and bullying, though the people are being bullied certainly will be. To make sure all employees can treat their peers with kindness, provide anti-bullying training. This can cover identifying bullying, as well as conflict resolution, to help with mediation when issues arise.

While much of the anti-bullying training focuses on younger people, there are courses and resources that help with workplace bullying, including this guide from Safe Work Australia

5. Have Everyone Sign an Anti-Bullying Pledge

For most of us, it's important to keep promises so creating and signing a workplace anti-bullying pledge can help remind people how important it is to make the work environment safe for everyone.

As well as your own internal pledge, why not sign the Spirit Day pledge and become part of the global movement. 

6. Provide Supportive Spaces for LGBTQ Employees

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An employee resource group can be a good way to support and engage your employees. (Image source: Envato Elements)

If you're a cis-het CEO, you'll never fully understand the experience of your LGBTQ employees. It's important that they're able to share with people who will empathize, come together to discuss issues that are relevant to them, and advocate for any necessary change.

One way to do this is to set up and resource an employee resource group (ERG). An ERG is a powerful way to build internal communities, and to support and engage your employees. This tutorial discusses setting up an employee resource group:

7. Embrace Diversity

"Culture will eat compliance for breakfast," says an article on Smart Company.

It's a reminder that if you really want to create a safe work environment for your LGBTQ colleagues on Spirit Day, and beyond, it's essential to embrace diversity as part of the culture.

Rather than going for "tolerance", aim for acceptance and welcoming of all people. Not only will this create a better and more harmonious workplace, but it'll also increase productivity and creativity, bringing tangible benefits to the bottom line.

8. Provide Counseling

Helping your employees maintain good mental health is a matter of human decency, and it benefits your business, too. To help LGBTQ employees who may be affected by workplace bullying, consider providing counseling services (or contributing to the cost of therapy) to help those employees remain on an even keel.

You can do this via insurance benefits or an employee assistance program. And you can offer other programs that benefit mental health, like regular in-house yoga or meditation sessions. As with everything else, the participation of the C-suite and top executives will improve the culture for everyone.

Learn more about the importance of mental health in a working environment in our latest mental health day post:

9. Support LGBTQ Causes

Your LGBTQ employees and their allies will care about causes related to their existence and wellbeing. As a company invested in creating safe and welcoming workplaces, you can show you care by supporting those causes.

If you're not sure where to start, your ERG can provide a shortlist of the most important ones. This also sends a signal to potential bullies that you're not on their side.

10. Make Public Commitments

As well as supporting key causes financially, you can make a public commitment. For example you could:

  • partner with Spirit Day and help spread the word about it
  • attend local events that support the LGBTQ community and actively take part
  • run a social media campaign or share social media updates talking about your support for both Spirit Day and LGBTQ employees and colleagues

More Spirit Day Resources

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Resources are available to stop bullying, both in your community and in the workplace. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Need more Spirit Day ideas? These resources will help:

  • Stop Bullying - Get Help. This resource from the US government provides steps to get help, especially for young people in education.
  • Stop Bullying - LGBTQI+ Youth. This resource from the US government provides statistics on bullying within the LGBTQ community, information on relevant laws, and guidance on creating safe spaces. 
  • Cyberbullying Research Centre. This website provides data and statistics on bullying and cyberbullying. It also includes resources and presentations you can use to educate yourself and others. 
  • NYSUT Workplace Bullying Toolkit. This is a useful resource, especially if you're tasked with creating a workplace anti-bullying statement. As well as fact sheets and posters, it includes several examples of policy statements, and links to other resources. 
  • Parent, Educator & Youth Guide to LGBTQ Cyberbullying. This guide explains the difference between cyberbullying and offline bullying, and gives guidance on fighting bullying and creating safe spaces. Though it's geared to schools, a lot of the guidance will help workplaces, too. 

Learn More About Spirit Day and Fighting Workplace Bullying

Get more Spirit Day ideas and tips for fighting workplace bullying in the articles below.

Take Action For Spirit Day Today!

Even though it's already Spirit Day, it's never too late to fight workplace bullying of LGBTQ colleagues and employees.

Use the Spirit Day ideas and tips in this guide as a starting point for working on this issue all year round, and take the pledge so you're all set for Spirit Day 2022.

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