1. Include contact with those who identify along the trans identity spectrum

1. Include contact with those who identify along the trans identity spectrum

To help in cultivating supportive relationships, work groups should be told when those who are transitioning will be out of the office, whether they will return part-time, and what work will have to be covered during their absence. Emphasizing the need for coworkers to show sensitivity, provide emotional support, and act in ways that affirm the gender identity of their colleagues is crucial. For example, people can make it clear that they are available to talk about any issues related to transitioning or gender expression-while following trans employees’ lead about when and where to have those conversations. That approach enhances feelings of support and care and allows trans employees to be comfortable having honest conversations with their colleagues. Even well-intentioned employees may be nervous about their ability to support a colleague through a transition, and employers can help ease some of their anxiety by taking the above steps.

3. Develop Trans-Specific Diversity Training

More general training on gender-identity topics is also essential. Although media coverage has helped facilitate conversations about gender identity and expression, corporate diversity trainings still have room for improvement. We offer two recommendations:

A large body of research on the “contact hypothesis” suggests that providing opportunities to build relationships with specific groups-to hear their stories, appreciate their challenges, and gain empathy-is critical for shifting attitudes and behavior toward them. However, it is not the responsibility of members of the LGBTQ+ community to educate others or to be visible in this way; “out” trans employees should be included in trainings only if they are willing. If they’re not, many corporate training firms and LGBTQ+ nonprofit organizations offer training of this nature.

2. Help cisgender employees develop the skills to become informal champions of their transgender colleagues.

Research suggests that many people lack the knowledge and confidence to challenge prejudice. That’s why some companies have sought to equip their employees, especially leaders, with concrete strategies for stepping out of their comfort zones and engaging in “courageous conversations” regarding difficult diversity-related topics. For example, an employee who witnesses biased behavior is encouraged to respectfully but directly call it out. That might mean pulling someone aside to explain the potential damage from a biased comment, or having coffee with someone to tactfully share why a behavior was noninclusive. The chairman of PwC launched the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion coalition to normalize diversity-related conversations across top-level leaders in large companies. At Bank of America employees are encouraged to discuss gender, race, and other identity-related issues in a respectful, learning-focused manner.

These efforts pay off. In a forthcoming study we will report that cisgender employees who challenge noninclusive policies and behavior send an important message of inclusion to their trans colleagues. Our findings suggest that these behaviors may come in three related forms: advocacy, such as taking the initiative to publicly support trans causes; defending, such as protecting trans coworkers from judgment or hostility; and educating, such as spreading awareness of trans issues in the organization. We found that trans individuals who had recently witnessed these behaviors tended to report an increased sense of worth as organizational members, were more satisfied with their jobs, and were less emotionally depleted by work.

One trans man in government recalled feeling immense gratitude toward his assistant when she spoke out after he was treated poorly by a manager. “This came about as I sat at a lunch table at an empty chair,” he recalled. “When he saw I was sitting there, [he] jumped up like he had sat next to a very large spider. She [my assistant] voiced, ‘Scott, that was so rude’-twice! That brought me to an island of relief.” Courageous acts like this predicted individuals’ job satisfaction and men seeking women for sex well-being a full six weeks later.

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