Land Your Dream Job
Careers that help you move from intention to action

3 Things to Keep in Mind When Coming Out at Work

Joeli Katz profile image

Joeli Katz

Two people with rainbow bandana smiling, image for Idealist's blog post 3 Things to Keep in Mind When You Come Out at Work

If you’re in the closet at work, navigating your workplace identity can be challenging. Do you take your significant other to the office holiday party? Do you answer honestly when your co-workers casually ask about your dating life at the lunch table? The burden of hiding a pretty big chunk of yourself is draining!

Although your LGBTQ+ identity might feel unrelated to your work, it can also be an asset. Coming out at work can, in fact, be beneficial for yourself and your organization.

If you’re considering whether to come out to your colleagues as LGBTQ+, here are some points to consider.

Build authentic connections with your co-workers

As a social-impact professional, your work is probably a large part of your life—and something you are passionate about. Why not bring your full self to work? Although your personal life can (and should) be kept separate from your work life, your LGBTQ+ identity is a central piece of who you are. 

Think of coming out as a team-building activity. The more you feel seen, understood, and respected by your co-workers, the stronger your connection to the team. And the stronger your connection, the more open your lines of communication will be. Your authenticity benefits everyone. Plus, when you make genuine connections with your co-workers and supervisors, you’re more likely to advance within your organization.

Advance your organization’s mission

The ability to bring unique experiences to your social-impact work can be a major plus—and employees who are out at work are 50% more likely to innovate than those who aren’t out to everyone. When more diverse perspectives are brought to the table, your organization can have a greater impact on the communities it serves.

Many workplaces are making the effort to become more LGBTQ-inclusive because they know inclusivity helps drive not only the recruitment and retention of LGBTQ+ employees, but also greater engagement with LGBTQ+ communities. Reflecting on what you can bring to your employer is a great way to advance DEI efforts for future LGBTQ+ employees who want to join your cause.

Remember: your mental health matters

Concealing an identity takes a lot of effort. The mental energy you could be spending on brainstorming creative solutions or engaging with others, for example, might instead be swallowed up by thoughts such as, “Did I say anything that gave me away?” 

According to respondents to a Williams Institute survey, half of LGBTQ+ employees are not out to their direct supervisor. Deciding to come out at work and be yourself may save you from hours of replaying conversations in your head, worrying about being found out, or even ruminating on your outfit every day. This may not only take a toll on your mental health, but also on your performance.

Of course, only you know whether your workplace feels like a safe space to be yourself and whether the appropriate policies and protections are in place. If you’re feeling on-the-fence about coming out at work, you may want to consider how much of an asset being open about your LGBTQ+ identity can be—not only to your own wellbeing, but also to your organization as a whole.

Joeli Katz profile image

Joeli Katz

Joeli has professional and volunteer experience spanning the fields of healthcare, education, local government, and the nonprofit sector at large. She is passionate about LGBTQ issues and advocacy. 

Explore Jobs on Idealist