By now you’ve probably heard the news that Apple’s CEO Tim Cook came out as a proud gay man.
“I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others,” he wrote in Bloomberg. “So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.”
Cook understood that there are still many people who are nervous to come out to their coworkers and reveal their sexuality, and he wanted to help foster a more welcoming work environment across the country.
For years now research has shown that hiding one’s true identity at work can stunt performance. For instance, closeted LGBT employees feel more isolated at work, and they are more likely to feel that their careers have stagnated.
In a blog post for Harvard Business Review, Dorie Clark and Christie Smith propose that this issue extends beyond the LGBT community. They point to the Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion report, Uncovering Talent, which shows that 61 percent of employees cover their identity in some way, fearing that it will make others feel uncomfortable or draw undesired attention.
“A gay person might be technically out, but not display pictures of his partner at work,” Clark and Smith write. “A working mom might never talk about her kids, so as to appear ‘serious’ about her career. A straight white man–45 percent of whom also report covering–might keep quiet about a mental health issue he’s facing.”
For whatever reasons, employees may downplay their differences, and it is up to the managers and higher-ups to ensure that they feel comfortable being true to themselves without having to hide anything.
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