Dr Austin Tay




As we celebrate pride this month, we still need to remember that there are those who identify themselves as LGBTQ+ are still experiencing many forms of discrimination and harassment in the workplace, organizations need to continue to look at ways to protect their LGBTQ+ employees.


Discrimination and harassment on LGBTQ+ employees do not only happen in Asia. Even in countries where LGBTQ+ rights are evident, employees still believe that staying in the closet, perhaps, remains the best thing to do.


Researchers have reported that LGBT employees are more likely to be victims of workplace bullying than those who identified as straight (Fevre, Nichols, Prior et al, 2009)[1].


A national study conducted in the UK by Hoel, Lewis and Einarsdóttir (2014)[2]  reported that  LGB employees experienced high incidences of bullying and discrimination in the workplace. Drawing from  a representative survey  of over 1,200 face to face interviews, backed by over 50 interviews with LGB employees in six organizational case studies and 75 heterosexual respondents discussing LGB vignettes in 15 focus groups, the researchers found :


  • LGBs were more than twice as likely to be bullied and discriminated against than heterosexual employees.


  • One five (19.2%) bisexuals report the highest levels of bullying with a third reporting regular bullying.


  • One in six (16.9%) lesbians report bullying at work with approximately a third reporting regular bullying.


  • Gay men report more than double the levels of bullying compared to heterosexuals.


  • LGBs are one and half times more likely to experience a range of negative acts compared to heterosexuals and these were highest for lesbians and bisexuals. In some cases, LGBs were nearly three times more likely to encounter certain negative acts compared to heterosexuals. These include:


1)  “People avoiding physical contact with you at work.”


2) “Experience unwanted physical contact e.g. touching, grabbing, groping.”


3) “Being confronted with unwanted jokes or remarks which have a sexual undertone.”


The study also found that LGBs reported significantly higher levels of poor health and this was highest for lesbians and bisexuals.


What then can organizations continue to do? For starters, organizations need to be vocal about their stand on bullying in the workplace. A clear policy document about what behaviours constitute workplace bullying. Have a clear procedure for a formal complaint and investigation process.  Educate and create awareness in the workplace to reduce workplace bullying.  Encourage reporting of workplace bullying. Review organizational processes and structures (such as job stress, pay disparity, unclear job role) that can directly or indirectly perpetuate bullying.


It is not possible to expect organizations to eradicate workplace bullying entirely.  It is, therefore, important for organizations to constantly review their policy to ensure that the workplace will continue to be a safer and better place to work for their LBTQ+ employees.


[1] Fevre R, Nichols T, Prior G, et al. (2009) Fair treatment at work report: Findings from the 2008 survey. Employment Relations Research Series No. 103. London: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.


[2] Hoel, H., Lewis, D., and Einarsdóttir, A. (2014). The ups and downs of LGBs’ workplace experiences. Discrimination, bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay and bisexual employees in Britain.

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