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Queer Mental Health & High Performance Cultures.

Updated: Jan 16

Discover how to foster a psychologically safe workplace for LGBTQ+ employees, prioritizing queer mental health in high-performance cultures.

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High-performance cultures are known for their relentless pursuit of goals, tight deadlines, and competitive environments. While these traits can drive innovation and productivity, they can also contribute to mental health issues among employees. From our recent Community Check-In, where we surveyed our global network of 30k LGBTQ+ professionals, Mental Health emerged for another year running as the number one concern expressed by queer people going into 2024.

We’ve outlined three practices you can start today to make a difference in the mental health of your LGBTQ+ employees and maintain cultures of high performance.   

Tip #1: Create Spaces for Barriers to be Discovered.

Whether it’s conducting an anonymous survey, hosting a roundtable discussion with a neutral party, a fireside chat with a senior leader, or workshops, discovering what obstacles your employees face is crucial so you can meet them where they are. For example, making virtual events centred on mental health anonymous to attend may invite more people to join without the risk of feeling shame or auditing your health benefits to check for LGBTQ+ inclusive policies/options and reducing the Trans Tax.

Common barriers can include but are not limited to:

  • Not having role models who prioritise mental well-being.

  • Work cultures/policies not allowing for flexibility to schedule appointments either in person or remote during work hours.

  • Benefits that are not inclusive of digital/remote healthcare.

  • Fear of judgement or weaponization of mental health disclosure by managers.

  • Long wait lists from a provider.

  • Scarcity of therapists who have training in LGBTQ+ topics or are part of the LGBTQ+ community themselves.

  • Moving states or countries and having to find new providers.

As a clinician and therapist, I show up to my clients struggles more effectively when I show up to my own struggles with the same level of intention. As I become more aware of the barriers to my own wellness, it allows me to more intentionally listen to and appropriately empathize with the struggles of my clients while remaining cognizant of the differing contexts to our identities. That, therein, gives me the capacity to think critically about the care I offer them and what kind of skills, knowledge, structural changes, and/or intentional conversations may need to be had, made, learned, or employed to empower them toward their growth. As an organization, your job is to do the same. Those who have power to impact policy and practice within the organization should be utilizing their wellness services and prioritizing their own care to model and make the culture of the organization for those with less influence; and to make themselves aware of barriers that anyone seeking access to those resources might find. They should also make space to be present, listen, and be receptive to the voices of those members of the workplace community with less influence when they are brave enough to dialogue with them about those services and their perceived barriers." - Obella Obbo

Tip #2: Be Humble and Intersectional

Creating a supportive workplace culture that prioritises mental well-being involves several important elements. Firstly, it's crucial to acknowledge that we may not always have all the answers and that asking for help is perfectly okay, especially when developing programs to support others' mental well-being. Continual learning is also essential in high-performance cultures. Raising awareness of intersectional identities is essential to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach, recognizing that people have different lived experiences and may have experienced prior trauma.

“For as much as ‘intersectionality’ has become a HR buzzword, very few people outside of these lived experiences curate a space where it is safe to be intersectional… As an openly trans and gay man, I’ve embraced the responsibility of representing and educating others through my company's only employee resource group. However, the decision to disclose other aspects of my identity, particularly my disabilities and neurodivergence, remains challenging and one I’m still hesitant to take… Creating a truly inclusive and safe work environment that embraces authenticity remains a significant challenge that can only be solved with our continued collective commitment.” - Yujx Smith

Mental Health America’s annual work health survey helps determine the current state of worker mental health and well-being in the U.S. and workers who do not feel that leadership values their identities perceive their organisation as either complicit or harmful in cultivating a psychologically safe workplace.” (Source)

By prioritising mental well-being, we can foster a culture of allyship and increase our awareness of others' needs and intersecting identities and stories. To build rapport between employees, activities such as team-building exercises, support groups, and learning techniques like EFT tapping that can be done at your desk or home can be implemented. Social events can also create a sense of camaraderie, leading to a more supportive workplace culture. It's crucial to emphasise that seeking help for mental health concerns is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Tip #3: Make High Performance Results the Outcome of Psychological Safety 

Leadership plays a key role in creating a psychologically safe environment, and providing leadership training and mentorship opportunities is crucial. These programs should focus on skills like vulnerability, active allyship, and compassion, alongside job-specific training. To truly foster an inclusive high-performance culture, upskilling employees must incorporate mental health support and well-being.

And there is compelling data to prove the effectiveness of making these types of changes. 

"Research in recent years from Gartner, Gallup and Harvard Business Review found that the benefits of a high psychological safety at work include: 

  • 27% reduction in turnover 

  • 50% more productivity

  • 74% less stress

  • 26% greater skills preparedness since workers learn at a faster rate when they feel psychologically safe

  • 67% higher probability that workers will apply a newly learned skill on the job.” (Source)

It is clear that pushing for high performance while not prioritising the mental wellness of employees is likely to result in costly employee turnover and reduced productivity. By building robust support systems into the workplace, we can create high performance organically and in a sustainable manner.

“In my experience of workplaces that were not psychologically safe, energy has been wasted on hiding, editing, pretending instead of using that energy to perform at your best in a role. In larger companies or organisations, the approach could be that ‘you should’ feel safe and secure to share, however this may not always be felt in specific areas/teams within a business or organisation. Different teams within the one business/organisation can have very different experiences because of their specific line manager. In my experience there have been few line managers able to listen comfortably and support if required, so in the past I have chosen colleagues, friends and family over most line managers.” - Erica Rose

Final Thoughts:

If leaders aren’t trained in how to have these types of conversations and/or if you’d prefer to have trauma-informed facilitators/consultants lead them, using an external partner like We Create Space to support all levels of employees and develop an action plan for you can kick start making positive long term impact.

When organisations model behaviours like ones we have outlined to create psychologically safe workplaces within high performance cultures, we are able to place more value on our complexities as humans than our productivity as workers while still achieving our personal and professional goals. 


While you're here...

Did you know we consult with Businesses, ERGs and Change-Leaders providing bespoke corporate solutions? Through consultancy we design shared learning experiences, produce DEI insights and craft bespoke content that support individuals with strengthening their roles as change-agents within their communities and organisations. Find out more here.

We also organise FREE community events throughout the year! We offer a variety of ways to get involved - both online and in person. This is a great way to network and learn more about others' experiences, through in-depth discussion on an array of topics. You can find out what events we have coming up here. New ones are added all the time, so make sure you sign up to our newsletter so you can stay up to date!


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