In October, there was an unfortunate incident at a local shopping center in Raleigh when a security officer asked two lesbians who were sharing a brief kiss to leave, citing their “inappropriate behavior.” These two brave women spoke out publicly about the incident, and the shopping center management apologized and committed to assuring that the security staff received appropriate sensitivity and diversity training.
In November, I was hired to provide this training to 32 security officers. Instead of “going through the motions” and scheduling the training to only to appease others, the management team was truly committed to providing meaningful and relevant training for the staff. The senior manager worked throughout the day to assure that all 32 officers attended one of the training sessions, and he personally kicked off each with how important it is for his team to pay close attention and participate so they can grow their skills as security officers in dealing with the diverse people they interact with.
In all three sessions, which had between 10-12 officers, each participant was engaged and participated in the sessions, exhibiting sincere desire to learn from this unfortunate incident and gain stronger skills to improve interaction. In the evaluation, all participants stated that the diversity training material would be helpful to them in better performing their jobs.
Photo: Lesbian pioneer activists Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon who were partners for 56 years before Del passed away in 2008.
Lessons I feel we can all learn from this experience:
• People who speak out when they feel their rights have been violated help us all move forward. We owe them a big “Thank You!”
• When there is inappropriate action based on a lack of understanding around diversity, people can be sincerely open and can be trained to improve interactions with the diverse people of our community. We need to be slower to judge others and more open to educating others.
• Good can come from unfortunate situations when people work together to address them.
• It is important for leaders (in this case the senior manager of the security team) to set the tone by emphasizing the importance of diversity.
Take my GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) Diversity Test and see how strong your enterprise is in this area. Perhaps some LGBT specific or general diversity training can benefit your enterprise. Diversity Test Link.
There has been a lot of media attention the past few months about the tragic suicides of several gay teens as a result of gay bullying. So often these vulnerable teens do not find any support in their schools, churches, communities and even families, and see the ending of their lives as their only recourse.
Gay bullying damages more than we think. - photo courtesey of GLSEN
With this senseless loss of lives being an American tragedy, entertainment leaders such as Chris Colfer of the TV show “Glee” and Ellen Degeneres, as well as many religious leaders from several mainstream denominations have spoken to our country to address this bullying. But what is often missing is our business leaders and political leaders addressing the impact this bullying has on our entire country at the macro level.
Certainly the main focus of this discussion has to be preserving the dignity of every human life. But what we can add to the discussion is the wider impact. Behind the several teens who have ended their lives, there are also thousands of other children who are bullied and as a result participate in destructive behavior. These can include dropping out of school, alcohol and drug abuse, and running away from home. This leads to the downward spiral of ceasing educational and vocational development. We then as a country foster a set of second-class citizens who have dropped out of society and are not encouraged to grow with their skills to become contributing members of our economy. This will eventually develop into a drain on our country’s social services and health programs.
I believe every political voice on both sides of the aisle as well as business, education and community leaders can all unite on this issue to not only save lives, but to also contribute positively to the growth and education of every citizen. To complete in the growing global economy, we need everyone in our country to contribute to their full capabilities. It is good for every person as well as our country for each person to pursue education and vocational development with passion, not having to fear bullying in these same places they attending for this education. Every leader needs to step up to strongly advocate for strong laws as well as in depth education to stop all bullying of all people.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis with 27 employees recently posted a video for the “It Gets Better” campaign that underscores how bullying can affect the work force. View her video on YouTube.