Just 35 per cent of LGBTQ professionals feel safe being their authentic selves at work

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New data from LinkedIn sheds light on the LGBTQ+ experience at work and what people should look for and expect when deciding to come out professionally.

Choosing to come out to colleagues is a very personal decision. On one hand, it is a significant step towards authentic living and helps to foster an inclusive working environment. On the other, in some circumstances coming out could lead to harassment, being bullied and even have a negative effect on your career.

To coincide with National Coming Out Day (11 October), LinkedIn has released new figures focusing on the LGBTQ+ experience at work. The research offers insights into the process of coming out in a professional setting and some of the factors that should be considered.

The sad reality is that not all LGBTQ+ people are able to live their authentic selves at work, with only 35 per cent of queer professionals feeling safe to do so, the figures suggest. Sixty-one per cent of respondents said they had experienced some form of micro-aggression while at work.

Code-switching and burnout

LinkedIn’s data reveals that 75 per cent of LGBTQ+ professionals surveyed have engaged in a practice known as code-switching, wherein people modify their speech, behaviour or appearance to fit in with what is deemed the “norm” – often a survival strategy employed by many within the LGBTQ+ community.

This intentional inauthentic living takes a toll on those who feel forced to practise it. The figures show that more than half of LGBTQ+ people admitted that code-switching affected their mental health and 38 per cent said it is contributing to burnout.

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“It is exhausting,” says Andrew McCaskill, a career expert and director at LinkedIn.

“It leaves almost no energy for creativity, innovation and building strong relationships. That’s what every company and every career needs most: creativity, innovation and great relationships.”

‘I felt finally ready to say it louder than a whisper’

For Riven Alyx Buckley, a social media and community manager at a software as a service firm, her sexuality is just one of many layers of her being.

“I don’t actively talk about it, but I don’t actively hide it either,” she tells PinkNews.

Buckley’s decision to come out at work coincided with her company’s Pride activities, and it was during a talk with a colleague and the “look” they gave her which put her in a safe place to be out at work.

“It was the recognition of kindred people,” she recalls. “There was no follow-up question, no prying, just quiet understanding. I felt finally ready to say it louder than a whisper.”

Do find allies, don’t feel pressure to come out

When making the decision to come out at work and in one’s professional life, it is important to be mindful of personal safety, emotional well-being and the potential impact on one’s career.

“Coming out at work is a deeply personal decision,” says McCaskill, “and for better or worse, we know that it can have real career impacts.

“For many of us, we don’t just come out one time. We come out over and over and over again.”

LinkedIn’s data also reveals how important visibility is, with 64 per cent of LGBTQ+ professionals wishing there were more people like them at work.

McCaskill’s best piece of advice is to find a community that can act as a support system and help guide you through the experience.

“We all need community,” he says. “Great careers are not built solo.”

When it comes to the “don’t’s” of coming out at work, Buckley insists that the decision must be the individual’s and should take place in spaces that “make you feel safe, recognised and nourished”.

She adds: “You don’t owe anyone your story, your vulnerability, or your privacy. Sometimes it takes sharing your truth to find those spaces, and sometimes it takes finding those spaces to share your truth.”

The author’s content and opinions have not been pre-reviewed, approved or endorsed by Discover.