Identifying as Lesbian, Gay, or Bisexual at Work: Implications of Disclosure Within Work Teams
As is the case for members of any stigmatized minority group, lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals face heightened adversity within the workplace (Herek, 2009). However, unlike employees with stigmatized identities that are readily apparent (e.g., race, gender), employees who identify as LGB are afforded a unique opportunity to avoid the adversity associated with their stigma altogether by choosing not to identify themselves (e.g., maintain the appearance of being heterosexual). However, despite the potential negative consequences, many LGB employees choose to disclose their sexual orientation to their coworkers and supervisors. Research on the impact of disclosure behaviors on subsequent job satisfaction has had mixed results (Kuyper, 2015; Eldahan et al., 2016), making it unclear when it is advantageous for members of this community to identify themselves. Furthermore, much of the work done in today’s organizations is done in teams, making it more likely that LGB individuals will disclose to members of their team if they choose to disclose at all. However, there has been little attention paid to the outcomes associated with disclosure in work teams. The following study examined the interaction effect of individual LGB identity characteristics (affirmation, centrality) and a team climate variable (identity support) in predicting the impact of disclosure on several key team-relevant outcomes (trust, commitment, withdrawal, conflict). Identity support was found to be related to several key team outcomes. Additionally, despite sample limitations such as range restriction and size, subgroup correlations suggested that there are different team-relevant outcomes associated with disclosure for employees with low levels of identity affirmation, working in teams with low levels of identity support. Furthermore, there was evidence of a moderating effect of identity centrality on the relationship between disclosure and team commitment. Implications and future research directions are discussed.