As we continue to explore coming out at the office we’ll be focusing on workplace safety for queer men this week. We’ll look at various kinds of safety and how to deal with any issues.
The physical safety I’m talking about doesn’t deal with risky environments. Those are usually covered by legislation. But, understand the physical risks of your job, and make sure you’re protected from harm.
What if your physical safety is at risk from someone you work with. This would include staring that makes you feel uncomfortable, up to the threat of physical violence. Immediately report these issues to your boss, human resources, or the police if necessary.
Threats to your physical safety are serious. Don’t wait until they escalate to real danger to do something about them.
Bullying can, and does, happen in the workplace. Like in high school you may fear that reporting the issue will make it worse. I was seriously bullied high school and in retrospect I should have told someone. The emotional fallout has taken me years to sort through. Things don’t get better on their own.
Intimidation of any sort is absolutely inappropriate at the office. Regardless the form it takes, doing nothing is never the right answer. If you’re being bullied, first, stand up to your bully so they know that their behavior in unacceptable. Then, report the issue to the most appropriate person.
Your course of action doesn’t change if your bully is your boss. Report them to either their boss or human resources. Yes, there may be repercussions, but nothing will change if you don’t take action.
Gossip is a lot like bullying. It’s harmful and unacceptable. The only way to deal with gossip is to address it head on. Determine who the gossip is and their intention. Then, confront them.
If what they are saying is an outright lie then let them know so. If it happens to be true, like revealing your sexuality, then let them know it isn’t theirs to share. If the conversation doesn’t lead to change then seek support.
You can sometimes use gossip to your advantage. Coming out is a good example. If you’ve dealt with all the key people at the office you can use the gossip mill to do the rest of your coming out for you. But, make sure you’re ready for what comes next.
If it Isn’t Safe Get Out
There are times, that despite our best efforts, the place we work at continues to be threatening. No one can, thrive for long under that kind of stress. If you’re in a place where you have options then look for a legal remedy. At the very least, you’ll force the company to take a hard look at themselves.
Systemic change however, usually requires time. Time you may not have if you find the environment intolerable. In such a case make an exit plan and if possible make sure that the right people in the organization know what’s going on so that they can do something about it. Every person deserves to feel safe at work. In most cases it is not only ethically, but legally required for your company to ensure that. You don’t need to tolerate anything less.