Being 'in the closet' at work is stressful for gay people

It can impact your health negatively if you hide your sexuality at work.
It can impact your health negatively if you hide your sexuality at work.

Work is stressful enough, and adding the burden of hiding your sexual orientation could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.  

Work and home life suffer when people in same-sex relationships try to hide their sexual orientation from co-workers, a new study finds.

Satisfaction a factor

"Hiding your sexual orientation can be thought of as a demand of the job, in that you're having to hide it and devise strategies, from using different pronouns, not mentioning your spouse, or not including your spouse in work-related parties or other functions," said study first author Rachel Williamson. She is a doctoral candidate in industrial-organisational psychology at the University of Georgia.

Findings from the study were published online in the Journal of Vocational Behavior.

"The efforts required to hide sexual orientation from a supervisor impact the partner's family satisfaction. The partner being less satisfied at home explains why the partner is in turn experiencing this family interference with their work," she said in a university news release.

Previous research published in Plos has also found that homosexual men are more likely to suffer from mental illnesses than heterosexual men because of the stress of being a social minority.

Men experience more negative consequences

The study included 89 same-sex couples.

According to study co-author Malissa Clark, "There are many reasons an employee may hide these details about their lives from their co-workers or supervisor, as well as decide who they disclose to and why, all of which are sources of stress."

Clark, an assistant professor of psychology, said that both men and women benefited when they disclosed their sexual orientation at work. But men experienced more negative consequences when they weren't fully open about their sexual orientation, she said.

An open culture at work

Williamson said, "Our results show why it's important that organisations foster an open culture and allow people of sexual minority status to feel comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation, that it helps not only their own well-being, but that it impacts their partner."

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
28% - 9789 votes
72% - 24596 votes