How Does Your Organization’s Public Image and Mission Statement Affect Your Employees?


Last week, The Star Barn Village, a local Wedding Venue in Elizabethtown, PA, was in the news for their policy prohibiting the use of their space for same sex weddings and receptions.  WPMT FOX43 which serves the Central Pennsylvania area, reached out to me in my capacity as the Lancaster Pride Festival Committee Chair, to seek our reaction to this policy.  

I will be offering my own thoughts and opinions on this topic and I want to be clear that I am not speaking on behalf of Lancaster Pride in this article.

David Abel, owner of the The Star Barn Village, told PennLive  that he does not tolerate discrimination against anyone, not in his business, hiring practices, or in a public setting. He also is quoted by PennLive as saying, “No persons will be discriminated against; however, we ask people to respect that we have core tenants in our faith and our beliefs and we cannot participate in any event that would be in contradiction to those core tenants – one of them being marriage, which has been biblically based for thousands of years as being between a man and a woman,” which is stated in their Core Values Statement.  So, on one hand, this company does not discriminate in it’s hiring policies, but does so as part of it’s core values.  

Before we go further, lets define Discriminatory Practices.  A discriminatory practice consists of treatment of an individual or group, based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or social category that restricts or excludes members of that group from opportunities or privileges that are available to another, typically dominate, group.

How does that very obvious discrepancy impact hiring?

Well, first, as someone who is part of the LGBTQIA+ community, I would be unlikely to apply for a position with this company.  Why? Because I would not want to participate in discriminatory practices against members of my own community. And just as importantly, I would have reason to worry about how I would be treated while I was working for them.

So, if LGBTQIA+ people are dissuaded from from applying because of an organization’s core values and discriminatory practices, is the hiring process free from discrimination? 

The way people answer that will be determined by whether or not they view publicly posted Mission and Values Statements as part of the hiring and recruiting process.  To me, it is clearly an important aspect of that process, especially, as Smart HR’s article, The Importance of Core Company Values in Hiring and Retention states, “Corporate values work as a signaling strategy that can attract like-minded employees and filter-out less suitable ones.”  

Jena Brown, AKA Talent Junky, an independent recruiting operations and brand strategist, illustrates why companies use public facing Mission and Values Statements as part of their recruiting process in this quote from ZipRecruiter’s article, Why Company Culture is so Important for Attracting Talent.

“Hiring talent that doesn’t align with your company culture creates personal conflict within the employee that will no doubt impact their work and those they work with.”  – Jena Brown | Talent Junky

Which brings us right back to the workplace culture.  How could a member of the LGBTQIA+ community ever feel as if they are truly welcome and included at a company that is actively discriminating against their community?  How many comments will they overhear every week that remind them that the core beliefs of the people they work for, and with, do not include or accept them? How likely are they to feel comfortable speaking to HR and expressing how such comments are impacting them?  How will they be able to speak freely about their families and spouses while at work? How many conversations and organizational activities will they feel, or actively be, excluded from? How much of themselves will they have to cover and what impact will that have?

Fostering an Inclusive Culture means looking at every aspect of your business and identifying those areas where your employees will have a different experience or understanding from what you intended or perceive.  David Abel, doesn’t believe that he is acting in a discriminatory way, and probably never even thought to consider how his policy prohibiting same sex weddings at the Star Barn Venue might also impact his hiring process by weeding out LGBTQIA+ people upfront. It’s obvious, however, that the perception, experience, and understanding LGBTQIA+ people have of the policies and culture of the Star Barn Village differ from his significantly.  

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