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Transgender Issues Within the Workplace: Is Your Organization Prepared?

June 8, 2015

Within the past couple of weeks, Caitlyn Jenner has been the subject of many headlines in the media. Some have referred to Caitlyn Jenner as being courageous and brave.  Others have been angered by the public attention Caitlyn Jenner has received.  But in the midst of all this pop culture, some important issues have been masked: How employers should deal with the transgender issue.  It is not going away. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued a guide to restroom access for transgender workers.  There is an issue here and it is not pop culture.   

Most organizations are going to focus on what they need to do to stay legal.  However, the bigger issue is what organizations are going to do to ensure a safe environment for everyone that works at their company.  The emotions that have been displayed on Facebook, Twitter and other aspects of social media illustrate the lack of preparedness that we have in our organizations to create an inclusive environment for everyone.  

We must be concerned about those individuals that are different and are struggling with these issues.  We must remember that we hired each person because they had skills and talents and we felt they could help our company to be stronger.  It is important that no one be made to feel less important, bullied or belittled. 

Public reaction also illustrates the difficulty we have in helping those that are angered by these circumstances.  We must help them work through their fear and frustration and recognize that transgender individuals are not a threat to them or their belief system. 

Compliance will be the focus on much of the training and the physical changes in an environment. However, organizations must recognize that compliance will not solve the problems that they will face in their environments as transgender becomes more relevant and common in the workplace.  It will take:

  • shared norms and expectations;
  • a strong culture around the way we behave at work and how we collaborate; and
  • transparency and a real conversation/dialogue.

Of course compliance means less liability, but it does not mean success. What we need to do is ask…

“What does teamwork really mean? How do we ensure that everyone, those that are going through the transgender process and others who are observing that process at work are able to work together in a productive and profitable manner to ensure the success of their organization?”

What has your organization done? Besides talk about Caitlyn.