This article was originally published on The Growing Up Guide, which has since ceased publication. The article has been archived here.
There’s a divided opinion on whether you should be ‘out’ in your workplace. It works for some people and it doesn’t for others.
Ultimately, the decision depends on two main factors;
- Whether you are comfortable with your sexuality
- Whether you are comfortable with others knowing your sexuality.
Regardless of the industry or place you work in, being out at work shouldn’t be an issue.
That’s not to say that being out always results in a ‘butterflies and rainbows’ perfect ending. Last year, a study conducted by CV-Library, found that one in nine U.K. employees have experienced some form of homophobic bullying in their place of work.
The study also found that more than a third felt pressure to be open about their sexuality when starting a new job. Whilst no one should ever feel pressured to come out (especially when they’re not ready to), there are some benefits to being open about your sexuality in the workplace.
Let’s look at a handful of them.
No more pretending
A survey by OUTstanding found that 85% of closeted LGBTQ+ professionals waste energy pretending to be someone they’re not. 61% of those that acknowledged by wasting energy to conceal their true selves, they didn’t work as hard as they could have.
This is due to the additional stress caused by the fear of people finding out, consequently resulting in a drop in quality of work.
By being out at work, you won’t be wasting energy on the stresses of hiding your identity. Meaning you’ll be able to channel that energy into something more productive – like being efficient at your job.
Chance to be yourself
One of the most common problems with not being yourself at work is that you can sometimes feel detached from the people you work with. This often means struggling to connect on a personal level with your colleagues.
By being out and sharing important aspects of your life, you will see that it is much easier to bond with people at work. Not only that, but you will also be happier by being yourself.
In fact, 99% of the top 200 LGBT business figures admitted that coming out at work was less traumatic than they expected.
Goldman Sachs’s CIO, Marty Chavez, once said that “gay people are happier, healthier, and more productive if they feel they can bring their whole selves to work.”
Be part of an inclusive work place
Being out at work will make your bosses acknowledge whether their workplace is inclusive or not.
The Equality Act (EgA) 2010 states that everyone should be treated with equal value and therefore, every employer should have a zero tolerance on discrimination.
There is also the likelihood that, by coming out at work, you will help others in similar positions to you. Whilst some may see you as a role model, others may feel encouraged to come out too as they won’t be alone.
The other side of the opinion
It’s important to appreciate that coming out at work is not appropriate for everybody. Whilst some may feel the need or urge to come out, others may feel like doing so could affect their work or how people perceive them.
A survey by the British LGBT Awards found that two-thirds of lesbian and bisexual women have experienced a negative response to their sexuality at work.
Additionally, a Stonewall survey found that half of trans employees will keep their LGBTQ+ status a secret.
We must appreciate and understand that not everybody feels safe and secure in coming out at work.
The survey by the British LGBT Awards found that 85% of respondents said it would help if there were more visible lesbian and bisexual women in senior roles.
For those of us who feel comfortable coming out at work, we should be setting a precedent and helping make things easier for everyone else when sexuality no longer becomes taboo in the workplace.
Stonewall can provide details on issues affecting LGBT people; 0800 050 2020, Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5.30pm. You can find local LGBT groups and other useful contacts through Stonewall’s online database What’s In My Area.