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First, for clarification, I am not anti-LGBTQ.

My office has taken part in the Pride Month, which is celebrated throughout the UK in June every year. The month celebrations end in a large Pride march in London (this year, it was on the 6th of July). In the office there were usual talks and gatherings, together with decorations (pride flags).

It's been two weeks since the end of the month, and the decorations still stand. I know some in the office are very actively involved in LGBTQ groups and activities. I'm just an average person who support their cause, nothing less, nothing more.

I do not want my office to become a bastion of identity politics, nor to be used for the interests of some particular groups. If we were to allow this, the causes to be championed are numerous, and in the end, you end up with an office which is being used for purposes which were not originally intended. As such, although I was happy to support LGBTQ cause during the Pride Month, now it's over, and so I think it makes sense to remove decorations (which are also present outside the office, visible to the public).

So, how can I communicate this matter to the admin team in charge of this stuff, without sounding anti-LGBTQ? I don't want to hurt sensibilities, nor damage my reputation.

Notice, the office is decently big (50 people), and not everyone knows each other well, so prejudice might quickly arise.

UPDATE:

I can communicate to the admin team, which oversees the building (room booking, cleaning, use of space, etc). They do have an email address, which I imagine is visible to whoever is in there that day. Those decorations are reusable. For other events such as Christmas, they are removed when it is commonly judged acceptable to do so (e.g. for Christmas, they're removed at Epiphany).

I have no clue of what others think. I imagine those actively involved in the campaign have no problem with the decorations (and I'm not suggesting they are actively trying to leave them there forever). Maybe there are several who think like me, but are afraid to speak out. In the world today, if you say anything that might look anti-minorities, you become immediately a bad guy.

The goal? I said it. Just make sure the office stays neutral to social/political causes. We are not a company who has the defense/support for LGBTQ as an official core value, nor there is talks to make it one. So, at least for now, it feels inappropriate.

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    Hello network visitors! Please note that IPS is fairly strict about using comments as intended. Comments are only for clarifying and improving the question. Partial answers or general thoughts about the situation may be deleted without notice. If you'd like to write an answer, make sure to check out our posts on How do I write a good answer? and citation expectations first. Thanks! – Imus Jul 16 at 18:59
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    Are any of the decorations particularly interesting? Could you say to one of the organisers that you’d like to have it once it comes down (perhaps as a gift for an LGBTQ+ friend/relative)? – eggyal Jul 17 at 7:29
  • @eggyal Nothing special. Just flags. Interesting suggestion. They are property of the office, reused every year, and the do not cost much, so I could buy my own if I wanted to. But is a good idea. – johstone Jul 19 at 7:48
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An approach I've used in the past that was quite successful is to not ask that someone remove the decorations outright, but ask people if there are plans to clean them up or reasons outdated stuff is still around. In one case, I also asked if they could use my help (during lunch break) to clean up. I must admit this wasn't for something as sensitive as pride month decorations, instead, it was Christmas decorations that were still up in late January and outdated 'promotional' materials.

In most of the Dutch offices I worked, outdated 'promotional' material is seen as unprofessional, as clients visit these locations. It's considered perfectly fine to point out remnants of actions that are finished to someone managing the facilities. If pride month is over, your office might appreciate a reminder that their decorations are still up.

What I've also noted though, is that it's often futile to ask a company to get rid of things because they promote a particular cause. You're right, there's a lot of causes out there and a company can't support them all without having any place to work left. I'm a female that's currently working as a software developer, and as much as I'd like my company to be more sensible on the subject of sex/gender of their employees, it's proven much easier to get rid of posters promoting the female-only club activities in this company by saying 'they're outdated, the activity happened already' instead of requesting to have them removed because the company can't support other causes equally.

In your case, I would say your best bet is to write an e-mail to the admin team that politely informs them that there's still pride decorations up after pride month, and that asks whether the company is okay with having remnants of their actions around, or if they will (need to) be cleaned up eventually.

If the answer to that is that the company is okay with things being around even after pride month is over, don't push it. You now know where you and the company stand on this, and there won't be any way to ask to remove the props without coming across as having some grudge against pride month or LGBTQ+ people in general. Apparently, your company chose this approach as okay, and pushing to have them removed for the sake of neutrality will not go well.

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You don't.

The thing is that the company has already positioned itself in the political spectrum by putting the stuff up in the first place. Unlike Christmas, being politically involved is a year round effort.

If you are not responsible for the company's appearance and this sort of stuff truly bothers you, look for a new company. I find it incredibly difficult to be met with any sympathy regarding this political neutrality you desire, since like I said this goes beyond just one month.

Even in TinkeringBell's answer where a very subtle approach is suggested, it is still agreed that it is extremely risky to push for neutrality on the matter. This situation may open a can of worms that borders the ridiculous as there will be no qualms in starting crap if someone even momentarily thinks you are against the whatever movement (despite you being a supporter), and starting crap somewhere you have to be almost every day is literally one of the worst things you can do.

I live in Brazil and my experiences with this come from having my own share of "not fit for company culture" notices, even though my actual feedback has always been excellent, so I can only trace those back to needlessly voiced opinions at work. I've also spent half a decade around humanities militants, and I can say your push for neutral positioning simply does not survive in such an environment. The risk of headache is not worth it, specially over some decorations.

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    This answer is objectively not an answer to this question. – tuskiomi Jul 18 at 18:22
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    @tuskiomi You are welcome to flag it if you don't think so. Mind you the question goes beyond just taking stuff down where OP wants to actively champion a politically charged environment, so I've answered in that perspective. – lucasgcb Jul 18 at 18:32
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If I assume the best intentions, in other words, that you are asking how you can influence your co-workers to tone things down and choose more subtle ways to display acceptance of gender and sexual orientation diversity, then:

Primarily by leading by example. You can display, in your immediate work space, some small but clear indication that you are tolerant and accepting of this type of diversity. For example, a rainbow card on your bulletin board, or a button pinned to your jacket or bag. Then, if you notice that a larger item, such as a flag, is starting to collect dust or cobwebs, you can ask the people near that spot whether they mind if you take that flag down and store it in a safe place for next year's Pride Month.

In this way, you need not be embarrassed, or concerned that you might be viewed as reactionary, as you work to reduce the number of gay pride flags in your office.

I am basing this answer on how I have seen some employees at public universities indicate their support for LGBTQ students and employees in an understated but clear way.

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If you don't want to risk coming across as against the decorations themselves or anti-lgtbqia+, then don't even think of hinting at your true motivation of trying to control/limit what the office stands for. It can't help but carry the message of "I don't want the office to stand for this."

Instead, find some neutral and common ground reason for them to come down:

If the decorations are intended to be reused, you could frame your query in the context of keeping the decorations in a serviceable condition so that they can be used again in the future.

If they are not intended for reuse, then the context may be taking them down before they degrade, collect dust, etc. to the point of making the place look run-down and unkempt. (Flying a cheap sun-bleached and wind tattered plastic flag isn't typically a good look, and doesn't typically carry the message that you care about what it represents.)

We can't make a concrete suggestion as to how to frame the query, it is of course dependent the office, on how the company normally handles seasonal decorations, and of course on the condition and quality of the decorations themselves. If it is typical for decorations to be disposed of, or if they are not high enough quality to consider reusing, then suggesting that they be taken down is essentially asking for them to be thrown out. On the other hand, if they are very high quality (such that they could conceivably be used on a semi-permanent basis) expressing concern for maintaining their condition probably won't come across as genuine.

However you go about it, as other's have said: Keep it simple, and don't be pushy.

Backing Experience: This advice in this answer comes from 40+ years as a socially awkward person who still puts his foot in his mouth frequently enough and has spent many an hour contemplating where these various interactions went wrong. About 15 years of this was doing customer support oriented work in a retail environment, and another 10 years of supporting the software I write (for internal business units).

When a person is upset and enters the conversation in an adversarial mood, they can find a way to twist whatever explanation (no matter how truthful) things didn't (or can't) go as they expect in the most negative way possible to support their position. I've learned what is left unsaid is often as important as how you say things.

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You have written a very carefully worded question here, and managed to get a surprisingly high number of upvotes with very few downvotes despite the subject matter being controversial. I don’t know why you are so concerned that you could not be similarly eloquent when explaining the situation to your admin team who know you and ought to be a less hostile audience, if anything.

However, even if you do manage to explain your concerns without sounding prejudiced against the particular identity group whose posters remain up long after they need to be, I’m afraid to say that your concern will probably fall on deaf ears.

Studies have returned the result that encouraging diversity and engagement with those belonging to identity groups has a positive effect in the workplace, and that efforts to suppress the expression of group identities (so called “identity management strategies”) can influence perceived discrimination. Further, studies claim that when individuals manifest their social identity in the workplace, coworkers might be more sensitive to their behavior and treatment to avoid discriminatory behavior.

Fact is that those conducting such studies are also subject to the same fears that you have, and it could be argued that their findings are just what certain people want to hear. Still, that is the climate in which we live, and such findings support HR policies at local business levels. Your company will want to encourage this sort of thing, not suppress it, with the belief that in the long-run it is good for business.

I would advise you not to follow this up and to let the current climate run its course. The best thing that could happen is for one of the less socially-acceptable identity groups to misuse the company policy of allowing posters up and for that to result in nobody being allowed to put them up anymore.

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    Hey Astralbee, could you add some links to those studies? I believe it would make a great back up to your answer. – Ælis Jul 23 at 13:38
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Additional answer, originally a supportive comment at lucasgcb's answer:

To stay comfortable, you do nothing.

Political involvement of a company is a permanent thing across the entire year. From history, remember increasingly mandatory decoration of buildings (even corporate) on the rise of nazi Germany or in communist Soviet Union. My parents and grandparents had red stars at their workplaces. How would an employee protest for removal of swastikas or red stars and stay unharmed? (Especially if your company also somehow benefits from the ideology.) If there is a new ideology on the rise, any protesters have problem, what is confirmed by hundreds of preserved stories. So the answer "You don't" is the most helpful if you want to go with masses, simply get your monthly wage and for now stay away from any harm.

One of the signs that what you are facing could be an ideology, not just popular opinion, is the fact that any warning voices are strongly opposed and silenced. Also, even neutral questions stand under suspicion and if you ask a neutral question, you need to immediately declare "but I am not against that belief".

In my country, we were occupied by both above mentioned ideologies and they had impact both on the entire country and on the lives of the individuals. Even in my family, people fought in army against the former and then suffered under the latter in work camps, later losing their career when protesting against what should be believed (all that during their single life). Even in 1988 we could not freely say in our workplace "please remove that red star because anniversary of Great October Socialist Revolution is now 4 weeks over" without consequences. In western cultures, people may not recognize all the warning flags of what may be coming and that the history is most likely repeating. Even if your stance is neutral, you can get suspicious to proponents by nothing more than simply opening the topic of removing the symbols. Be careful.

I am not comparing the names, but the methods how ideologies gradually handle their opponents. They are creating new taboos what should not be openly discussed, they penalize opponents instead of including them, later they harm opponents as they gain traction and even remove their rights. Here the OP has to be increasingly careful and better do nothing if not prepared to deal with that.

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    Regardless of one's personal opinion on the subject matter, I believe it is safe to say that "being afraid to look bad in front of colleagues" and "being afraid of landing in a concentration camp" are two vastly different things, in substance as well as dimension. Conflating a question about professionalism with surviving in a fascist regime is the polar opposite of useful advice. – Ruther Rendommeleigh Jul 17 at 8:16
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    Your last line is helpful for the question OP asked about how-to-communicate and then you shut it down with a warning to be careful. Also, The last para in the q says that it is not a core value. So I think you'd need to include how to say/write the message. – ankii Jul 17 at 8:24
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    @RutherRendommeleigh – you are mentioning only the extremes, but there is a vast area of gray in between. To clarify for those who did not have a chance to experience that: Someone could report you to the company, thinking they are doing a good thing protecting the ideology. You can be exposed to "gentle talks" with your boss or other representatives. You can be presented with various reasons to cut your bonus. You can be the next who will go when the headcount is reduced, regardless of your results. You can be warned not to present your stances on the company ground (while others can). Etc. – miroxlav Jul 17 at 9:00
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    @miroxlav - Granted, oppression can take many forms. However, your answer postulates the presence of such a danger without providing any evidence for it. What leads you to believe that voicing OP's opinion would lead to them being "strongly opposed and silenced"? Again, the difference between professionalism and oppression is a qualitative one. – Ruther Rendommeleigh Jul 17 at 11:00
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    @RutherRendommeleigh – I did not made the statement you wrote. In that sentence pointed to fact that IF strong opposing including silencing (and other repressions) is seen happening, it is one of signs that you may be facing an ideology instead of simple modern belief. – miroxlav Jul 17 at 11:59

protected by A J Jul 17 at 4:25

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