Being Out at Work Counts

Turns out staying in the closet can put a damper on job performance

Courtesy of HRC

Are you out at work? A new study in July’s Harvard Business Review says that almost half of gay and lesbian professionals surveyed are not. And it turns out that staying in the closet often leads to dissatisfaction and distrust in the workplace.

“Despite recent progress creating more-welcoming environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees, fully 48 percent of LGBT respondents surveyed report remaining ‘closeted’ at work,” the article reveals. “Research shows that they are less likely than ‘out’ workers to be promoted and more likely to leave their job within three years.”

As many as 40 percent of gay and lesbian employees also admitted that staying closeted means they are “less likely to trust their employer” compared to professionals who are open about their orientation. The study of almost 3,000 professionals was conducted by the Center for Work-Life Policy and appears in the July-August issue of HBR.

In related research, the Center for Work-Life Policy also determined that these gay-unfriendly work environments are actually detrimental (and costly) to employers. In terms of ambition, almost 90 percent of LGBT workers are motivated to excel at work, 71 percent consider themselves to be ambitious and 66 percent are eager to be promoted. But when forced to stay in the closet, the toll is measurable for both employees and employers.

Unfriendly environments also tend to discourage LGBT employees from staying in the job or to be promoted into management.

Every year, the HRC reports about the best (and worst) companies when it comes to LGBT issues in its Corporate Equality Index. The survey for 2011 begins this month with results expected in November. HRC also offers a guide to coming out here.

Many well-known companies do much to encourage honesty in the workplace with LGBT employee groups, like Deloitte’s GLOBE (Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual Employees) PECO’s own LGBT group. Ernst & Young also began welcoming LGBT partners into its Inclusive Leadership Program that initially reached out to women and minorities. And Cisco Systems, a tech giant, even covers taxes on income that LGBT employees pay for healthcare coverage for same-sex partners.

Last year, Wells Fargo – new to Philly this year – received a 100 percent rating from HRC for being LGBT-inclusive. Local LGBT employees also marched in this month’s Pride Parade. “This outstanding recognition is a testament to our longstanding commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive environment for all our team members,” says Pat Crawford, head of enterprise diversity and inclusion at Wells Fargo. “Our team members are actively involved in LGBT nonprofit organizations and community programs across the country.”