As part of our commitment to Pride month here at Aspiring to Include, we want to discuss the concept of coming out at work. You can check out our other Pride month blogs on our site, where we talk about everything from transitioning in the workplace to becoming an inclusive employer. We believe that all these topics are critical to talk about and explore together. So, let’s do that and, for now, dive right into talking about coming out at work, with the hows and the whys.
The Current Climate of Coming Out at Work
A 2018 report from the Human Rights Campaign found that 17% of LGBTQ people felt “exhausted” by the time and energy they spent hiding their sexual orientation from people they worked with. A Glassdoor survey was able to show that as many as 43% of LGBTQ employees say they are not fully “out” at work, and a further 47% felt that if they were out at work, it could negatively impact their career, even thinking it could cause them to lose their job.
This means that nearly half of LGBTQ people who are employed do not feel safe being out at work. That is quite a shocking statistic and shows just how far we still have to go when it comes to equality, inclusion and diversity in the U.K.
However, not all is lost.
Despite how things are and have been, coming out at work can be a wonderful thing with many benefits and advantages. Both for individual people and for the general public as a whole. In fact, for your workplace too.
This is why we at Aspiring to Include actively support people coming out in the workplace and why we want them to feel as safe as possible doing so. In this blog, we are going to talk about why coming out in the workplace can be important for everyone. Also, how you might do it safely and appropriately.
Keep reading to find out more.
Why Coming Out at Work Can Be a Positive
There is still discrimination across the U.K. and it is vital that this is worked on and changed. However, it is also important to focus on the positive side of things. These things can help us remember how far things have come. It is always motivating and inspiring to think of success stories as well as the difficult ones.
Studies have shown that LGBTQ people who are more open about their sexual orientations and gender identities have “increased physical and emotional wellbeing”. Specifically so in the workplace, the same studies have found that increased authenticity from LGBTQ people has reduced their own psychological stress and that for transgender people, this gender affirmation can be “lifesaving.” (If you want to read our separate blog about managing a transition in the workplace, you can do so on our site).
Being out in the workplace can be a freeing experience. It can allow you to feel completely like yourself and take the weight of hiding off your shoulders. You can have more genuine conversations and relationships with others when your true identity is shared with them. This has a lot of personal benefits for you and the relationships you have with others.
But, the important issue here is that how well your coming out goes tends to depend on the environment of your workplace and how inclusive it is (or not). The benefits that we just described hinge on your working environment and the other people working in it. This is why it is important to manage your coming out in the right way and know that if things really aren’t right, something needs to be done about it.
How to Come Out at Work
Before you jump ship too quickly, however, the following steps are how we think that you can best manage your coming out at work. In such a way as to give yourself and everyone around you the best chance possible.
Start With Your Friends and Allies First
It’s always good to test the waters before you jump into anything too quickly. You can start by talking to your work friends and any potential allies first. If this goes well, you will feel much more equipped to move on to more widespread conversations and announcements.
In the situation where you don’t have any friends or allies you can turn to at work, it might be worthwhile thinking if this is the right place of employment for you. Having inclusive people around you is very important for your well-being and sense of community at work. If you have no one to turn to, it might be time to look specifically for inclusive and diverse jobs.
Get Direct Support From HR and Management
Certain LGBTQ employees may prefer to go through more formal channels in their coming out process at work. Both in order to protect themselves and get more official levels of support. Making any announcement or holding any conversation about sexual orientation at work can be kept safe when higher levels of management are involved, as “They can help run interference if there is a backlash.”
These members of staff can also remind everyone around you that discrimination against anyone based on sexual orientation is illegal under equal employment law in the U.K. A reminder of this from HR sometimes goes a long way. And so does a training session on topics like inclusive language and the use of “banter” in the workplace.
Only Do It When the Time Is Right for You
You should never feel pressured to come out as gay or otherwise at work. There are potential positives and potential negatives in store, and it is your choice what you would like to do.
If anyone is ever forcing you to come out, you need to consider their motivation behind this. Also, whether it is something that needs to be taken further as a form of harassment. You can always consult with Citizen’s Advice about these matters if you need to.
You can come out as early as you want to or as late as you want to. There should be no pressure on such a personal decision.
Know Your Worth
The bottom line is that LGBTQ employees deserve to feel safe and happy at work. If you are not getting these core conditions, it may be time to know your worth and leave to find a new job.
You can report any discrimination and consult your options for legal action. But it might also be time to find yourself a workplace and employer who supports you for who you are. Finding a Diversity-Positive employer who is dedicated to change and progress can make a huge difference in your life, employment and otherwise.
If this is something you are ready for, I would encourage you to take a look at our inclusive job board for diverse jobseekers.
We have various jobs for transgender people, LGBT jobs in London, gay jobs in Birmingham, as well as all kinds of LGBT jobs.
You never know what new opportunity you may find. One where you can fully be yourself.