Don’t Take It: 14 signs you’re being bullied at work because you’re queer

I’ve spent the last seven years studying and practicing organizational psychology, a field that seeks to enhance the workplace from a people perspective. This might conjure up thoughts of Google nest pods, annoying surveys about your work attitudes, and measuring the output of an assembly line. None of these thoughts would be wrong, but there’s another side to the field: making the workplace more humane and ensuring worker wellbeing.

Research from organizational psychology suggests that workplace bullying is a major issue in work cultures. This is especially true for people in the LGBTQ+ community, who are more likely to be targets for all forms of harmful work behaviors.

16-24% LGBTQ+ workers admit to leaving a job or industry to escape a bully.

Workplace bullying is insidious in that it can be difficult to identify when you are a target, and it can be difficult to determine when bullying crosses over into other types of discrimination and harassment. Because workplace bullying is so commonplace, it gets inside your psyche, tricks you into thinking that work is supposed to be this unbearable, and that your boss is supposed to be a socially dominant homophobe with a special penchant for singling you out.

It can also be tricky to navigate legally, as often bullying behaviors are not covered under laws and guidelines that cover discrimination and harassment. Many types of rude, demeaning, or isolating behavior that qualify as bullying would not be legally protected even though they contribute negatively to organizations on all levels.

Further, many workplaces do not voluntarily single out bullying behaviors in their policies or challenge them with cultural norms. Because of its insidious nature (as well as legally gray status), it often flies under the radar. The first step in dealing with this issue is understanding when it is actually happening to you.

14 Ways to Identify a Queer-Bullying Work Culture

  1. A persistent pattern of mistreatment comes your way that causes you humiliation, offense, and distress, tinged with homophobic, transphobic, biphobic, or heterosexist attitudes.
  2. Your boss frequently delivers covert threats of job loss, such as “If you and I don’t work out…” or “If you can’t handle working here…” when you question discriminatory practices or harassment.
  3. After you self-identify your pronouns, deadnaming and misgendering occurs frequently, with plentiful excuses such as “I knew you before…” or “I’m too old to change…”
  4. Your boss delivers repeated excessively harsh criticism about your performance and demeaning personal comments after you’ve come out as queer, addressed their bullying, or filed a grievance on queer bullying.
  5. Your sexual orientation or trans status becomes an invitation for sex talk. Coworkers frequently ask you for “secret Sapphic sex wisdom” even after you’ve established a clear boundary regarding such conversations.
  6. Caitlyn Jenner jokes are not only tolerated, but considered hilarious. Any LGBTQ+ current event becomes a joke opener for a conference call or meeting and no one challenges it.
  7. You are not allowed to update your name tag or security badge to match your gender preference.
  8. After self-identifying, bringing forth a grievance of queer-bullying, or showing up to the company Holiday party with your partner, you are excluded from routine meetings (both formal and informal) and you notice a change in others’ demeanor towards you.
  9. The “not my problem” solution is your boss’s solution to every act of queer-bullying that comes your way.
  10. Your requests to your boss, human resources, or another person in power go unanswered. Communication becomes sparse – your requests for information to do your job or file a grievance go unanswered.
  11. You’re stigmatized when trying to use the bathroom that affirms your gender identity.
  12. Your boss or coworkers intentionally destroy, steal, or sabotage your work materials and this treatment is singular to you or other LGBTQ+ employees.
  13. Your boss or coworkers personally demean you in front of other employees or in a meeting.
  14. Your coworkers, boss or admin department discloses your gender or sexual orientation without your expressed permission. No one should be gossiping about your body and what you choose to do with it.

Workplace bullying often flies under the radar, masquerading as a normalized work attitude and behavior in our broader culture. It is especially harmful for those in the LGBTQ+ community. If you find yourself in a toxic bullying culture, first step to mitigating bullying is to use this list to determine if you are a target.

If you find yourself a target of workplace bullying, report the bullying to a person in a position of power (your boss, human resources, by calling the ethics hotline, or writing a letter to the chief diversity officer or ethics officer). Make sure to outline how the bullying behaviors conflict with existing policies or practices. It may also be important to keep a record of the dates/times they occur and the categories of behaviors (personally demeaning, isolating, rude, etc.) in order to show a pattern of behavior. 

Keep reading as I explore workplace topics in more depth, including additional actions you can take, resources available to you, and how to be a catalyst for change in your organization. Or follow me on my personal blog for more on these topics.

This article originally appeared on QueerPgh.com. This article is preserved as a part of the Q Archives project. Please consider donating to help preserve Pittsburgh’s Queer history.