The "Study of the Month" column in our monthly Training newsletter features LGBTA-related research studies conducted by members of the Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology (SIOP). SIOP is the premier membership organization for those practicing and teaching Industrial-Organizational Psychology, the scientific study of the workplace. For more information about SIOP, please visit their website.
The motivating factors behind the decision to disclose one's sexual orientation may be relevant information for organizations that wish to focus their diversity and inclusion efforts on the lesbian, gay and bisexual community. The current study is a national sample of both LGB and heterosexual employees. Participants responded to an online survey pertaining to the disclosure of sexual identity in the workplace.
In the opinion of both heterosexual and LGB employees, the top reasons to disclose one's sexual identity were to 1) establish a sense of authenticity and 2) to improve co-worker interactions. For both groups, the most important reasons to keep one's sexual identity to oneself were 1) possible discrimination 2) and a valuation of privacy.
Believing disclosure is important, however, did not predict whether or not LGB employees would be disclosed at work. The results suggest that only removing discriminatory barriers may not encourage those employees who value disclosing (almost 50% of study participants) to be open about their sexual orientation at work. Encouraging initiatives focused on authentic living and positive co-worker interactions may prompt LGB employees who value disclosing their sexual orientation to be themselves at work.
Disclosure is an important experience to many, but unique for all types of individuals. There may not be a catch-all means to approaching the issue, but understanding the motivating forces behind the disclosure process can help organizational professionals improve the working experience of LGB individuals.
This study was presented at the annual Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology conference in April of 2012 by Natasha Buxo, Jacob M. Waldrup & Valentina Bruk-Lee. For more information, please contact Jacob.
True work-family balance is a goal that many organizations strive to achieve for the benefit of their employees. Traditionally, work-family conflict has been measured by examining time-based conflict (“I don’t have enough hours in the day for work and family), strain-based conflict (“my job or my family are too stressful”), and behavior-based conflict (“behaviors that make me successful at work don’t make me successful at home (or vice versa)”). Many organizations provide flexible scheduling, opportunities for telecommuting, virtual office space, and services such as on-site childcare, laundry services, and fitness facilities in order to decrease conflicts between work and family domains. However, while employees in general might benefit from these services, LGBT employees in particular may have additional work-family concerns which are not currently being addressed by employers.
In a recent study, 41 LGB individuals who were currently in a same-sex relationship, representing a variety of industries and job levels, were interviewed about their experiences of work-family conflict.
Nearly half (46.43%) of the sample mentioned LGB identity-related concerns (in addition to time, strain, and behavior-based concerns) playing a role in creating work-family conflict for themselves and their partner/children. For example, among many other concerns, LGB employees were concerned about having equal access to family-friendly benefits (or being able to ask about how to receive them), with being able to talk about their partner/children at work with coworkers and with being able to bring their partner to work events. Further, LGB individuals were concerned about being able to talk about their partner/children with clients/customers/students and with losing their job or being passed over for promotion if anyone found out about their same-sex partner. Using traditional measures of work-family conflict, LGB individuals were found to experience time, strain, and behavior-based concerns at similar levels to a general population.
Overall, this study hopes to encourage organizations to strive for a more inclusive form of work-family balance, by raising awareness about additional identity-related work-family concerns which may be experienced by LGB individuals. This study demonstrates that, in order to create a welcoming and productive environment, it may be important for organizations to put LGB family–friendly initiatives into current work-family balance programs.
This study was presented at the annual Academy of Management conference in August of 2012 by Katina Sawyer. For more information, please contact Katina Sawyer.
Have you ever wondered how coming out at work might influence the way your performance is evaluated? The current study reveals some insights on this important topic. In line with stereotypes, results support that a gay manager was seen as stronger on relational aspects of performance. These findings point to the greater need to understand how sexual minority populations can be influenced by stereotypes at work.
In the current study, real world managers served as participants and were asked to rate the performance a manager in a video. Participants from across the country were led to believe the target manager was either gay or straight by changing the social affiliation on his resume (e.g., Gay Men’s Chorus vs. Jazz Band). Participants assigned higher ratings to the gay manager on relational aspects of performance (i.e., conflict management and leadership skills) when compared to the ratings of the straight manager; no differences were found on instrumental aspects of performance (e.g., being decisive and analytical). Not surprisingly, female managers provided some of the highest ratings of the gay manager.
The results of this study provide initial evidence of some of the positive benefits of being out at work. Yet, there is a need to create a performance evaluation system that promotes structured observations and ratings of job-specific behaviors to avoid ratings driven by stereotypes.
This study was presented at the annual Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology conference in April of 2010 by Brian Roote. For more information, please contact Brian.
Individuals’ perceptions of personality in gay male and lesbian applicants can potentially be a factor in the hiring process. In the current study, we asked individuals to evaluate a resume and rate the applicant’s personality, specifically the Big Five, masculinity, and femininity. The resume potentially included sexual orientation cues such as gay and lesbian affiliated organizations, reflecting a gay male or lesbian applicant. Results suggest that individuals rated the resume reflecting a gay male applicant as more feminine and less masculine than the resume reflecting a heterosexual male applicant. In addition, individuals rated the resume reflecting a lesbian applicant as less agreeable than the resume reflecting a heterosexual female applicant. The most interesting and practical information garnered from these results is that individuals were able to form stereotypical perceptions of an applicant’s personality based solely on a resume. A resume consists of limited cues and information regarding an applicant’s sexual orientation; in this case organization affiliation. It is important to note that individuals were able to observe these limited cues and form stereotypical personality perceptions of the applicant on the basis of those cues.
This study was presented at the annual Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology conference in April of 2012 by Megan B. Morris and Gary N. Burns. For more information, please contact Megan Morris.
As with nearly any type of workplace incivility, heterosexist harassment - harassment based on sexual orientation - can hold significant negative implications for both the workers and the organization. As part of a larger project examining multiple predictors and outcomes of heterosexist harassment, this study sought to explain some of the mechanisms by which this harassment impacts turnover intentions. To start, we found that as levels of harassment increased, employees were increasingly more likely to express a desire to leave their job. Interestingly, this effect was not seen only among targets of the harassment; merely witnessing such events had a similar negative impact. One factor that potentially mitigates this, however, is the level of engagement of the employee, that is, the degree to which the employee feels immersed, enthusiastic, and energized by his/her work. We found that the effect of harassment on intent to quit occurred via a change in employee engagement: the harassment decreased worker engagement, which in turn increased intent to quit. This suggests that, if struggling with incidences of heterosexist harassment, organizations can potentially address engaging their workers so as to better shield them from negative consequences of the harassment and improve their overall well being.
This study was presented at the annual Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology conference in April of 2012 by Daniel Herres and Vicki Magley. For more information, please contact Daniel.
Sexual minorities, i.e., gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender (GLBT) persons, represent one of the largest minority groups in the workforce, and research has shown this group faces pervasive workplace discrimination, both formal and informal. To understand the factors that might predict how sexual orientation is relevant to selection related decisions, Pichler, Varma and Bruce designed a study that integrated the "Lack of Fit model" of gender discrimination, which has shown that women are perceived to be a misfit with jobs that are perceived to require masculine characteristics (e.g., managerial jobs), with the implicit inversion model of homosexuality, which suggests that homosexual men and women are perceived to display gendered characteristics of the opposite gender.
In a fictitious hiring scenario, the authors found that both men and women, gay or straight were less likely to be perceived as hireable when their perceived gender is inconsistent with the gendered role of a particular job. In other words, both heterosexual men and lesbian women (masculine candidates) were favored for a masculine job (sales manager), and gay men and heterosexual women (feminine candidates) were favored for a feminine job (registered nurse). This finding was dependent upon diversity training, i.e., it was not true for persons exposed to such training, as well as the gender of the decision maker (male raters viewed "misfit" candidates as less hireable than female raters). Raters who were more socially dominant viewed sexual minority candidates as less suitable for employment, and those raters who had negative attitudes towards gay men and lesbians viewed them as less hireable.
In total, these results suggest that discrimination of sexual minorities in formal employment decisions may be related to belief systems of decision makers, the gendered nature of the job for which the candidate is being considered, as well as exposure to diversity training. It may be important to train persons responsible for selection related decisions about perceptions of gender and gender roles, and how these perceptions may affect employment decisions, so as to reduce the extent to which both gender and sexual orientation influence such decisions.
This study was published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology in 2010 by Shaun Pichler, Arup Varma, and Tamara Bruce. For more information, please contact Shaun.