4 MINUTE READ | September 14, 2018
Being Your Authentic Self in the Workplace
We spend approximately 40 hours or more of our week at work. During the weekdays (and especially the holiday season in advertising), we may see our coworkers more than we see our families. Now, imagine that on top of the stress of your job’s workload, you also have to live with the stress of having to constantly hide a huge part of who you are. That’s a reality for many members of the LGBTQ community in the U.S. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 46% of U.S. LGBTQ workers aren’t out in the workplace.
Those 46% of LGBTQ workers have many reasons to dread coming out. They fear discrimination from their coworkers or managers. They worry about making people uncomfortable. In some cases, they may even lose their jobs. In a country where the LGBTQ community can marry in all 50 states, a staggering 31 states still don’t have laws protecting LGBTQ workers from losing their jobs based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Texas is one of them.
Growing up, I’ve always been a tomboy. Since I was young, I hated wearing dresses or skirts. In college, I decided to cut my hair off and began wearing clothes that made me feel more confident. As I left college and entered the workforce, one of my biggest concerns was working at a company where I had to wear a dress or overall present myself as more feminine. The idea of having to put on a “costume” five days out of the week made me anxious. It often happens, with one in five LGBTQ workers reporting that they were told by co-workers that they should dress in a more feminine/masculine manner.
Like the 46% of closeted LGBTQ workers, the idea of being my authentic self at work made me nervous. Despite that nervousness, I showed up to my interview at PMG rocking my short hair, dress pants, and a button up. And here I am, two and a half years later, louder and prouder than ever. I’m incredibly fortunate to work at a company where I am encouraged to be my authentic self every single day. And my colleagues feel the same way:
“I’m so grateful to work for a company where I can be my authentic self, and I don’t have to worry about portraying a heteronormative lifestyle. At PMG, I can just be my own version of normal. And that’s something that is really important to me because my sexual orientation is only one aspect of what makes me, me. Working here, I know that when I step through the door in the morning, I’m seen as Justin and not just a label.”
— Justin Perez, Presentation Designer
“You spend about half of your waking hours at work. It’s important to be your authentic self at work because trying to be something other than that takes up too much energy, and that’s energy being taken away from things that really matter like building your professional career and establishing genuine relationships with others. Trying to hide your authentic self also causes anxiety that you’ll end up bringing home with you, impacting your personal life. Plus, people will find the authentic you more interesting — unless the authentic you is a jerk, then, in that case, keep that false facade up because no one likes a jerk.”
— Kara Eccleston, Senior SEO & Content Strategist
“Being your authentic self at work is about personal health and freedom. The meaning of being authentic is about being all that you are all the time including while in the workspace. There should be nothing that changes when you enter the door — no mask to put on, no worry, no performance to become a “work self.” With regards to LGBTQ employees, being authentic at work requires feeling safe and included. When the culture of a company supports diversity and inclusion, then being authentic is a natural next step. At PMG, I believe we have a culture that supports authenticity, and I know that I can be my authentic self at work.”
— Eric Elsken, Application Developer III
The importance of companies to create happy and inclusive workplaces can’t be stressed enough. LGBTQ workers should feel empowered to be their authentic selves every hour of the day, including the 40 hours we spend in the workplace. Coming out is a difficult process overall, and working at a company that is open and accepting can make that process easier.
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