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Keywords:

  • sexual orientation;
  • GLBT;
  • diversity;
  • voice;
  • silence;
  • inclusion;
  • gay;
  • lesbian;
  • bisexual;
  • and transgender

Abstract

Employee voice has been largely examined as a universal concept in unionized and non-unionized settings, with insufficient attention to diversity of workers (Rank, 2009). As invisible minorities, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) employees provide a valuable focal point from which to examine employee voice mechanisms. Positing that GLBT employees are often silenced by what is perceived as “normal” in work organizations, this paper identifies some of the negative consequences of this silencing and proposes ways in which the voices of GLBT employees and other invisible minorities can be heard. With its relevance to policies and practices in other organizations, the “Don't ask; don't tell” policy of the U.S. military is used as a lens through which to analyze voice, silence, and GLBT employees in other organizations. Heterosexist environments can foster organizational climates of silence, where the feeling that speaking up is futile or dangerous is widespread among employees. Specific recommendations are provided for HR managers to facilitate the expression of voice for GLBT employees in today's increasingly diverse organizations. ©2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.