My name is Michael Jones, I’m the Global Head of Learning & Development at The SR Group and I’ve been out at work for all of my professional careers.
I came out in my mid-20s after almost ten years of hiding my sexual orientation from friends and family so by the time I started working in a corporate environment I found it very comfortable being my authentic self.
I was fortunate to join an inclusive organisation that valued diversity but it was still a little nerve-racking to go through the process of outing myself to my new colleagues. 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 get to know me. Sure enough, someone soon 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 married ...and his name was Daniel. I didn’t know what reaction I was expecting but nobody reacted negatively, in fact, it was a complete non-issue and everyone just carried on with their day-to-day life
I’ve changed employers many times in my professional career so I’ve gone through the coming out process at work several times. It’s always something that gave me a brief moment of hesitation and caused me to have little moments of self-doubt but, thankfully, I’ve personally never found it to be an issue.
Working for an inclusive employer means that I can comfortably be out at work allowing me to be my authentic self. This has helped me to not only focus completely on my work and avoid worrying about being ‘‘outed’ but also build strong relationships with my colleagues and develop real connections with people.
My advice to people that are not out at work, but want to be, 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 – perhaps start by coming out to a trusted colleague. Instead of referring to your significant other as a “friend” start to use the term boyfriend, partner, husband or wife– whichever you feel more comfortable with. The next time someone asks what you did over the weekend, tell them that you went to a club or saw a play, and when they ask for more details you can drop in that it’s a new gay club or the play was part of the Pride festival. Once you start you’ll feel much happier and you’ll become more comfortable being your true self. More than likely you’ll 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, REMEMBER 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. The rights of LGBTQ+ employees have come a long way in the last few decades and we as a community must ensure that our rights are not ignored. In my experience, I’ve never encountered anything negative 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!