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Empowering Trans and Non-binary Employees

3 Ways to Support and Uplift Your TNB Colleagues at Work

I had the pleasure of speaking with Mattingly’s own consulting assistant and in-house LGBTQIA+ subject matter expert, Abbey Salvas, for an episode of our livestream video series, Better Humans at Work (BH@W).

Abbey is a doctoral candidate in industrial/organizational psychology at George Washington University, where they are working on their dissertation. Their study focuses on experiences of authenticity for trans and non-binary (TNB) employees at work.

As fellow I/O psychologists embedded in the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) space, Abbey and I had a great conversation, nerding out over the intersection of I/O and DEI, with a focus on the trans and non-binary (TNB) community.

Leveraging their deep research and growing applied experience in the TNB space, Abbey then shared evidence-based best practices on what organizations can do to not only support those who are TNB, but also empower them to be their most authentic selves and receive the benefits of that authenticity.

**NOTE: A link is provided in our conversation for Abbey’s dissertation study recruitment. Due to an overwhelming response of eligible and willing participants (blissful music to any researcher’s ears), Abbey is no longer taking applications.

Thank you to all who completed the eligibility survey and joined the study!

What is the role of organizations in empowering TNB employees?

Abbey and I discussed some of the recent experiences we have had with Mattingly clients who have come to us to better understand how to support their trans employees.

Across these conversations, we noticed a common theme of not knowing the best way to allow TNB individuals to “come out” at work without—often unintentionally*—pressuring them to do so.

When it comes to self-disclosure and self-advocacy for someone from a marginalized group, impact ALWAYS matters more than intent. We must center those we’re trying to serve, NOT push what we believe is best for them.

Each individual must be given the space to be as authentic or “out” as they want to be about certain aspects of their identity in the workplace (and in life). It’s not anyone else’s place to encourage someone to share aspects of their identity, no matter how well-intentioned.

Organizations still have an important role to play when supporting TNB employees. Providing the structure and the policies to allow a TNB employee’s journey to be as seamless as possible is the important role of the organization.

Example policies, practices and procedures for best supporting the TNB community in the workplace are shown below:

Organizational Best Practices for Supporting Trans & Non-Binary Employees
  • HRIS/name systems

  • Company norms around sharing pronouns via email signature, Zoom username, etc.

  • Clear guidance on changing name in company systems (email, Zoom/Teams, Slack, etc.)

  • Inclusive demographic items to capture all genders in data collection

  • Facilities

  • Gender-neutral bathrooms with inclusive signage

  • Policies

  • Health care policies that include access to gender-affirming care

  • Non-discrimination policies that include gender identity and expression

  • Gender neutral dress codes

  • Training

  • Institute training on gender identity and inclusive behaviors for TNB individuals

  • Provide resources on key terms and other important information to encourage inclusive language

Quite honestly, though, the above recommendations are the bare minimum organizations should do to accommodate TNB employees. Especially since this population is only expected to grow as younger, more gender diverse, people enter the workforce.

To truly reap the rewards of a diverse workforce—where people from all backgrounds and identities leverage and learn from each other’s various experiences and perspectives, resulting in increased innovation, engagement, productivity, and as a result, profitability—all employees must be empowered to bring their best selves to work, each and every day.

While we all benefit from the above DEI vision, we need to be more proactive and strategic with putting efforts in place to empower those in the workplace who have been historically left behind. This is equity.

Why is it so important to empower TNB employees?

As Abbey pointed out in our episode, 1.6% of the US population identifies as TNB, and the number jumps to 5% for those younger than 30 (Branigin, 2022). These numbers make it clear that organizations will continue to alienate more and more of their current and potential talent pool if they don’t put systems in place to better accommodate TNB employees.

Also, why settle for a whole 5% of the future workforce not meeting their full potential because they have to spend their time and energy overcoming additional challenges that those who are not TNB have to face? Empowered employees make better employees, and the TNB community is no exception.

Often, we will hear from organizations that they don’t have “any” or “enough” TNB employees to even accommodate in the first place. Maybe they’ll write and enact more TNB-friendly policies once that population reaches some arbitrary critical mass…or maybe not.

To not fall into this trap of inaction, begin not with assumptions about your workforce, but with data. Abbey recommends organizational leaders ask themselves hard questions rather than assuming everything is just fine.

“Are you collecting [gender identity] data? Are you empowering your employees to respond and know that they will be kept safe? That their answers will be kept confidential and used to inform a better workplace and not come back to bite them in any way?”

It is therefore essential to create trust with your employees so that they feel comfortable disclosing information about their identity that will help them receive the support they need to better perform their job.

Further, organizations can send the message that they truly support TNB individuals by instituting supportive policies before they have a disclosed trans person in their workplace.

How can organizations empower TNB employees?

Abbey finished our conversation with three recommendations rooted in their research, consulting, and lived experience about how to best empower and support those who are TNB in your organization:

1. Start with respect and empathy.

At the interpersonal level, the most important thing to remember is that all individuals are deserving of respect and empathy. Inclusion means making everyone feel valued, respected, seen, and heard in all interactions. What unique circumstances do TNB people face in your organization where you can proactively behave inclusively?

Also, the goal of inclusion isn’t always getting it right, but knowing what to do when you get it wrong. As Abbey and I discussed in our episode, when (and not if) you make a mistake, like misgendering someone by using the wrong pronouns, quickly correct yourself and move on—no need to make a big deal out of the flub, or even worse, put the TNB person in the awkward (and inappropriate) position of validating that you’re still a good person and that your intentions were good.

2. Ensure TNB-supportive policies and facilities are in place from the beginning.

Policies around name changes, pronouns, bathroom usage, and access to gender-affirming health care are just some ways organizations can signal that they are a safe place where TNB employees will be empowered to be their most authentic selves.

3. Elevate trans voices and support them publicly.

Within your organization, find ways to show that the trans employees in your organization are empowered to share their voice. Publicly support trans causes and trans people across the country to make clear that your organization cares about this community, especially considering the current political climate against them.

For more information about Abbey and their work, connect with them on LinkedIn.

Looking for guidance on empowering your LQBTQIA+ employees…or any underrepresented and/or historically disadvantaged group in your organization?

Contact Mattingly Solutions today to learn how we can partner to advance your DEI goals. Together.

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