Why are LGTBQ employees still hiding in the work closet?

Emerging research looks at why LGBTIQ+ individuals share or conceal their LGBTIQ+ identity or status at work

Why are LGTBQ employees still hiding in the work closet?

Despite last year’s victory on marriage equality, a large proportion of LGBTIQ+ employees are still not comfortable being themselves at work, according to Lisa Annese, CEO at Diversity Council Australia (DCA).

“And yet hiding who they are can be costly not only to their own well-being, but also to the organisations they work for and the broader Australian economy.”

Indeed, two-thirds of LGBTIQ+ employees in Australia are not out to everyone with whom they work and this “significantly compromises” their wellbeing and performance, according to new research by the DCA.

The report examined why LGBTIQ+ individuals share or conceal their LGBTIQ+ identity or status at work and what Australian organisations can do to make their workplace safe and inclusive for LGBTIQ+ workers to be themselves.

The study, Out at Work: From Prejudice to Pride, found only 32% of LGBTIQ+ employees are out to everyone at work and those who aren’t out are twice as likely to feel down compared with employees who are out, and 45% less likely to be satisfied with their job.

Annese added that the report “comprehensively quantifies” the business case for creating LGBTIQ+-inclusive workplaces in Australia.

“I urge employers to take a good look at what they can do to take advantage of the benefits; not only for their LGBTIQ+ employees but for their organisation as a whole.”

The research also found:

  • Concealing compromises wellbeing. LGBTIQ+ employees who are not out to everyone at work are twice as likely to feel down compared with employees who are out to everyone at work, and 45% less likely to be satisfied with their job.
  • Being out at work drives performance. LGBTIQ+ employees who are out to everyone at work are 50% more likely to innovate than workers who are not out to everyone; 35% more likely to work highly effectively in their team; 28% more likely to provide excellent customer service.
  • LGBTIQ+ inclusion also drives performance. Employees in organisations which are highly LGBTIQ+ inclusive are at least twice as likely as employees in non-inclusive cultures to work effectively, innovate, and provide excellent customer service.

Moreover, RMIT School of Management lecturer and Out at Work lead research investigator Dr Raymond Trau said much of the existing research highlighted that while coming out at work is beneficial, it could have consequences.

"This research highlights the complexities of coming out at work. It's is an ongoing dilemma for many LGBTIQ+ workers, particularly when they start a new job or meet new co-workers. It means different things to different people," said Dr Trau.

The research was released in partnership with RMIT University, the Star Observer, Deloitte and QBE.

 

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