LGBT people work everywhere. But we’re not always welcome to be ourselves at work. In fact, it’s sometimes downright discouraged and even could be grounds for termination in some states. Well here’s something for intolerant employers: A new study suggests that coming out at work could enhance job performance for co-workers of the uncloseted- and therefore the company.
Supporters of policies that force gay and lesbian individuals to conceal their sexual orientation in the workplace argue that working with openly gay individuals undermines performance. We examine this claim in two studies and find the opposite effect. Specifically, participants working with openly gay partners performed better on a cognitive task (i.e., a math test) and a sensory-motor task (i.e., a Wii shooting game) than individuals left to wonder about the sexual orientation of their partners. These results suggest that policies, such as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” that introduce uncertainty into social interactions harm rather than protect performance. (emphasis mine)
We’ve always known that being trapped in the closet can be harmful to the self-esteem and self-worth of a person. It turns out that maintaining integrity in your personal life is also good for your working life. Makes sense to me. Ask anyone who has to remain closeted at work how hard it is to self-monitor at that level for 8-10 hours a day. Excruciating. And if you’re in the military, or member of an institution that actively frowns on The Gay- well, it’s even more terrible. Pretty much 24-hour-a-day anxiety and fear.
Living a life of integrity in the workplace was a dream of mine ever since I came out. I vowed I wouldn’t have to go back in- ever. But I’ve been more fortunate than some. Economic concerns about losing jobs can make this situation even more painful- there just aren’t a lot of choices for employers right now- especially in rural areas.
But maybe CEO’s who want to improve the job performance of their companies will see this and create more integrity-supportive personnel policies. It just makes sense.
And cents. And we all know that money talks. Especially today.
My father was in the British merchant navy from the 50s through to the 80s. The major shipping company he worked for unofficially encouraged the employment of gay men onboard their ships as they believed it added a much needed emotional balance to the, then, all male crews and that this, in turn, led to a happier ship. Their view of gay men being surrogate women was old fashioned but their understanding that out of the closet gay men in the workforce enhanced the profitability of the company was way ahead of its time. I would emphasise that this was not a sexual thing (although I’m sure physical relationships were common). I believe, in practice, the heterosexual men onboard felt they had someone they could talk to about stuff they wouldn’t talk to other heterosexual men about. Also, it has to be admitted, they liked being fussed over and, believe me, those gay stewards would fuss over the crew members like mother hens over their chickens.