My name is Michael Jones, I’m the Head of Internal Recruitment and Training at Hays and I’m out at work.
I’m fortunate to work for an inclusive organisation that values diversity (in fact Hays has just been awarded the National Equality Standard, one of only 20 companies in the U.K. to have been recognised) but it was still nerve-racking when I first joined the company and had to go through the process of outing myself at work.
I remember the usual first day nerves being accompanied by a feeling of unease about the inevitable personal questions that would come up as my new colleagues tried to get to know me. I was worried about how and when to reveal that yes I was in a relationship and that his name was Daniel. Sure enough, someone asked about my relationship status and, taking a deep breath and summoning up all the courage inside of me, I dropped the bombshell that I was with a man….and, without skipping a beat, the person asked me my partner’s name and continued to have a conversation with me. Nobody reacted negatively, it was a complete non-issue and everyone accepted me into the team from that moment on.
I’ve changed teams many times since then, and even moved countries with my employer, so I’ve gone through the coming out process at work several times. It’s always something that gives you a moment of pause and causes you to have little moments of self-doubt and concern but I’ve personally never found it to be an issue. Being out at work means I can be my authentic self and that’s helped me to not only focus on my work and avoid worrying about being ‘found out’ or ‘outed’ but also build strong relationships with my colleagues and develop real connections with people.
My advice to those people that are not out at work is to be brave and start the process, one step at a time. It doesn’t need to be a big announcement to the whole office at the next staff meeting, accompanied by Diana Ross on the sound system belting out ‘I’m coming out!’ Try coming out to a trusted colleague. Instead of referring to your special someone as a “friend” start to use the term boyfriend, partner or husband – whichever you feel more comfortable with. The next time someone asks about what you did over the weekend, tell them that you went out to a club or saw a great new play, and when they ask for more details you can drop in that it’s a new gay club or the play was opening the LGBTQ festival. Once you start you’ll feel much better and you’ll become more comfortable and relaxed being your true self – and you should find that everyone accepts who you are and treats you just the same, in fact you’ll probably find yourself feeling closer to your colleagues for sharing something personal with them.
If you experience negative reactions, that’s their issue, not yours, but of course if you experience any form of harassment, bullying or discrimination you need to speak to your Line Manager or HR straightaway. In my experience I’ve never encountered anything like that but I know that not everyone is as lucky as me to work for such an inclusive organisation with fantastic people and supportive leadership.
Good luck coming out at work, and enjoy being your authentic self in the workplace!