Coming out at a workplace can be a daunting challenge to one. But it can resolve and relieve the daily stress of hiding who you really are.
However, no one wants to put their job at stake and any opportunity in danger. Fear of rejection and boundaries are just a few reasons that employees struggle to let out their personalities and interests at work.
For an LGBTQ+ employee, in particular, being yourself can be challenging on a whole new level if you haven’t decided to come out. Coming out is a decision that can impact on queer folks’ safety, job satisfaction, and happiness, career path.
But, there are solid reasons that make the case for coming out. The more we hide who we truly are, the more likely we are to feel shame, sadness, and isolation. Being closeted can also bring up anxiety, as there can be a background fear that someone will find out and put you against your will.
Below, are a few steps guide to help you determine whether or not it’s safe to come out at work, and how to proceed either way:
1. Do your Homework:
If you work for a big-name company, read through the rights and corporate equality index, also check if the company is listed in the diversity list to see if you can spot your employer.
These lists rank corporations on their commitment to diversity, basing scores on direct actions taken to promote inclusion and equality. If you spot your company on any of these, know you’re at a gig that’s at least trying to value openness.
“Depending on location, class, race, etc., everyone’s life situation is really different. For some people, coming out could be too big a risk to their safety, stability, and finances.” —Lee Airton, PhD
In case you’re working for a less known company, you can investigate whether a non-discrimination policy exists. Specifically that nobody can be hired, fired, or promoted based on sexuality. If it does, you’ll know that your company has taken the time to thoughtfully craft this and is likely gender-inclusive.
2. Observe your co-workers:
One obvious way to figure out whether or not your work environment is queer-friendly is simply to get observing people around you. Listen to the chatter which happens around the office to measure your colleagues react to queer-related goings-on in the news.
3. Consider Chatting with the HR:
In states where there’s not protective legislation in place, deciding whether or not to loop in human resources, can be challenging and tricky. Talking with HR can be helpful, but might cause problems as well. That’s because, as a general rule of thumb, HR’s responsibility is to protect the company, not the employee.
However, it also helps to schedule a meeting but to ask strategic, vague-leaning questions so you can read your audience before deciding how to proceed. If your HR department is a good one, it’ll be receptive to how you’re feeling and your desire to come out. The data you collected in steps one and two will help you decide if that will be the case at your place of work.
4. Considering the Risks, Speak the Truth:
Depending on your state, company, and company culture, coming out at work may be a risk. But, not coming out can also be stressful. Not being out at work affects what people are able to share about their life during casual chitchat, it may make them stressed about what they post on social media and if they’re trans*, they face being misgendered every single day, over and over.
If you’re coming out as trans or gender fluid, the process takes a little more navigating due to the question of preferred pronouns, bathrooms, and safety.
First, tell those whom you know will be very supportive and accepting. Then, ask for their help in sharing your preferred pronouns, explaining your gender identity.
5. If You Can’t Come Out, Consider Seeking an Inclusive Workplace:
If you live in a state where it’s legal to be fired for your status, at a company without protective policies in place, or simply somewhere where you don’ feel comfortable, you might feel best not coming out.
“Your happiness matters. Give yourself permission to seek out an alternative place of work that will be accepting.” —Dr. Airton.
Considering the challenges, companies are slowly becoming LGBTQ+ friendly. Accenture is one of the companies which feels that equality is not-negotiable.
We are committed to an equal workplace. One that inspires authenticity at work for all our people—including sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
“LGBTI inclusion is not only the right thing to do from an interpersonal point of view. It is also a business imperative because CEOs recognize that a culture of equality creates trust, innovation and therefore business growth.”– SANDER VAN ‘T NOORDENDE, Group Chief Executive – Products.
Laudco Media, a digital marketing agency Bangalore, also believes in diversity and equality.
“For all of us at Laudco, encouraging and promoting diversity has always been at the forefront of our workplace. Culture is truly embedded within our organizational DNA. I feel proud to say that each of our employees has been able to broaden their knowledge during their tenures. Even if one of our colleagues learns a new concept or current affair relating to diversity and inclusion, that’s is a personal win for me. As an organization, we try to hire people who demonstrate acceptance and willingness to learn. It is an ongoing process of self-introspection, community building, and promoting a culture of openness and experimentation” – Shubham Mehrotra, CEO of Laudco Media told.
Nathan Peddie, BD Manager at JLL India said ” At JLL, as a Global Real Estate Firm, key values such as acceptance and understanding others who may be different to you are inculcated within the firm’s culture. Honestly, If you ask me, as a service-led firm, people are the company’s greatest asset. As one of the few Foreign Nations working in India, I often jokingly refer to myself as the Diversity and Inclusion Champion!
However, the real champions are those who can go to work every day and feel safe. They are happy to be part of an organization that actively accepts and includes all Genders, Sexualities, Castes, Creed and Skin Colours.”