If you’re in the closet at work, navigating your identity in the workplace 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. Being out at work can, in fact, be beneficial for yourself and your organization. If you’re struggling with whether to come out to your colleagues, here are some points to consider.
Building authentic connections
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.
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?”
Being yourself at work can 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. According to research by the Diversity Council Australia, closeted employees are 45% less satisfied with their job and twice as likely to feel down than those who are out at work.
How you can help 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.
Of course, you know best whether your workplace feels like a safe space to be yourself and whether the appropriate policies and protections are in place. But if you’re feeling on-the-fence about coming out, 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’s work as a whole.
Even as the COVID-19 pandemic has changed some of our standard Pride Month activities, we can still take time to think about the struggles the LGBTQ+ community face in the workplace. Share your experience with us on Facebook.
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.