Coming Out is Good for Your Career
Gay people should not be scared of coming out in the work. It frees up the mind and allows to engage more into relations with clients, colleagues and work projects. At the end of the day, it leads you to be more successful and happy.
Recently I have found a few souvenirs from Kiev, where I was living and working in 2007. Memories returned. Back then I was living in the “glass closet”, so everybody knew that I was gay but I denied it when asked directly.
The truth was known only to the very few people in my life. And I really don’t know why I was so scared of coming out. Maybe the reason was I grew up in a Polish Orthodox Catholic family, where almost every member was blaming Jews, gay people, and political left wing for every misfortune.
In my times at school worst insult was when someone called you ‘GAY’. I also heard a lot of stories of gays beaten up on the streets and about people losing jobs when their boss had even a suspicion about their homosexuality.
So then I thought it was only natural for me to make myself ‘safe’, to fit in and don’t stand out from the crowd — in any way.
As you see I was not always courageous, strong and full of self-esteem as I am today. I think I needed to understand that being a gay is the same as having blue eyes or curly hair — I can’t and I won’t change that.
In 2007, when I came back to Warsaw from Kiev, I felt the burden of constantly hiding my true self, so I took steps to stop living in the ‘closet’. For sure I was lucky I’ve worked in the environment that embraced diversity.
But believe me that almost ten years ago I was at the same moment as a lot of young executives and entrepreneurs right now, who are still scared of coming out from the closet at work and struggling with themselves. But the world is changing.
Poland is changing maybe a little slower, considering recent political events, but luckily it still looks different from 2007 when John Browne, Lord Browne of Madingley, resigned as chief executive of the British oil giant BP after being outed as gay by the tabloid The Mail.
Browne was under no illusions he’d ever be chairman or chief executive of another publicly traded company. “To a headhunter I would have been seen as ‘controversial,’ too hot to handle,” he writes in his book ‘Glass Closet’.
I spent four decades of my professional life hiding part of my identity. Being in the closet did not harm my career, but it came with a huge personal cost. It is my hope that The Glass Closet will encourage people in business today to avoid the mistakes I made, and to bring their whole selves to work — Mr. Browne writes in his book.
Coming out in the workplace is more often a non-issue. Being open at work can be a challenge. But it can also relieve the daily stress of hiding who you really are.
Coming out in my work and business benefited me. First of all, I don’t mislead anyone, don’t need to hide, look for potential “danger” in being outed on meetings, company parties and in any other situations.
It also allowed me to build deeper relations at work (with colleagues and clients) and broke down barriers to understanding, to be myself and raise my work productivity.
As a respected part of the team, not only by my associates but first of all by myself, I wanted to go to work to share my knowledge and skills with people.
Coming out can be good for your career and can even benefit because your peers will see you in a new courageous light.
It’s also good for your health. LGBT adults who came out are just as happy, healthy, and satisfied with their jobs as their straight counterparts. Out gay and bisexual men actually had lower rates of depression, and were more physically fit, than straight men. They were also more engaged in work. Coming out is just healthy.
If you want to come out the closet in your workplaces The Human Rights Campaign has these suggestions.
Ask yourself those question first: what is the overall climate of your workplace? Are there openly gay staffers? Do people at work discuss their personal lives much?
Once you’ve assessed your workplace atmosphere, here are some practical steps:
- Identify someone who is LGBT or LGBT-supportive, and talk to them first.
- Take a breath. People will often take their cues from you on how to talk and feel about LGBT issues. The more casual you are, the more likely they are to follow your lead.
- Make a plan.
- Talk about LGBT-related news stories, movies, TV shows or other topics as a way to signal your views or start the conversation.
- Bring a partner or date to company functions, or have them meet you at work one day.
- Bringing up a gay-related news story or a TV show with gay characters can be a way to start the conversation.
- After all of that just play it cool. Because the most important thing is normalizing it.
Sadly there are still many people around the world who work in countries where being open about who you love and who you are can lead can to great danger, not only losing a job or wasting promotion opportunity.
I’m very lucky because people I’m working with are open minded and encourage diversity.
For me, personally, coming out was good for work life and continues to be. I feel like I couldn’t be a good team leader, trainer and somehow a person I want to be if I still would be fearful to bring my true self to work and… life.