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.
Most organizations have a set of values and beliefs that become the norm among a majority of its employees. However, many employees may not share those beliefs and are faced with a decision of whether or not to conform. The current study is a national sample of LGB employees. Participants responded to an online survey pertaining to the disclosure of sexual identity in the workplace.
Choosing to disclose sexual identity is a choice many LGB employees make according to their own constitution as well as their organizational culture. The current research shows that the decision to disclose sexual identity is directly related to how much LGB employees chose to disclose other aspects about themselves such as their values and beliefs at work. Employees who are more disclosed (disclosed to more people) about their LGB status are less likely to conform to organizational values that do not fully align with their own. Employees who are less disclosed about their LGB status are more likely to withhold their own views, create false impressions and ostensibly embrace those of their organization. However, a higher sense of authenticity in LGB individuals lead to lower levels of conformity to organizational norms.
An organization where LGB employees are less disclosed about their minority status may also be an environment that compels those same individuals to suppress their person values and beliefs. These findings suggest that employers should encourage a sense of authenticity among their LGB employees if they wish to promote an environment that fosters diversity of thought and benefits from the different experiences of all its employee.
This study was presented at the annual Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology conference in April of 2013 by Jacob M. Waldrup, Jose Rodriguez & Valentina Bruk-Lee. For more information, please contact Jacob Waldrup.
Mentors in the workplace can significantly contribute to job-related outcomes of their protégés, and some research suggests that having a similarly diverse mentor may provide certain benefits that having a dissimilar does not provide. Yet, little research has examined the influence of employment mentors for gay and lesbian employees. As such, the current study examined the job-related outcomes of gay and lesbian employees who either had a gay or lesbian mentor, a heterosexual mentor, or no mentor. Results showed that employees who had a mentor received more benefits than employees without a mentor. Gay and lesbian employees who had a gay or lesbian mentor reported greater psychosocial job-related outcomes such as increased job satisfaction, but did not experience greater tangible benefits such as increased salary. Additionally, gay and lesbian employees who had a gay or lesbian mentor reported receiving more mentoring advice about managing one’s gay or lesbian identity in the workplace and perceived their mentors as better role models than gay and lesbian employees with a heterosexual mentor. Taken together this study illustrates the benefits of mentors (regardless of sexual orientation) for gay and lesbian employees, and it highlights the specific benefits that gay and lesbian employees gain from having similar sexual orientation mentors. Employees who can serve as mentors to others should do so as this helps to build up protégés, and can be particularly effective for protégés who are managing their sexual orientation identity in the workplace.
This study was published in 2012 in Human Performance, V. 25 by Michelle R. Hebl, Scott Tonidandel, and Enrica N. Ruggs. For more information, please contact Enrica Ruggs.
Although diversity training is a popular initiative in organizations, empirical research is needed to determine what makes it effective when it works and what makes it ineffective when it does not work. This field experiment sought to examine the focus of training (racial differences vs. LGBT individuals) and the type of training (perspective taking vs. goal setting vs. stereotype discrediting) as determinants of diversity training effectiveness. Results indicated that a focus on LGBT individuals may lead to less prejudice and more supportive behaviors toward this group, even when these outcomes are measured eight months after the training has taken place. However, these same effects were not found when examining the effectiveness of diversity training focused on racial differences. In fact, we found some evidence of a “backlash effect,” such that individuals in the race-focused training actually displayed less supportive behavior towards African Americans when compared to individuals who participated in the LGBT-focused training. These results suggest that target-specific diversity training exercises may only be effective for certain stigmatized groups. Thus, rather than abandoning target-specific training altogether in favor of more holistic approaches, we should first seek to understand how exactly target-specific training operates for both visible and invisible stigmas.
This study was presented at the annual Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology conference in April of 2013 by Alex Lindsey, Noah Levine, Eden King, and Mikki Hebl. For more information, please contact Alex Lindsey.
The repeal of the U.S. military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy provides ample opportunities for research. Rarely does such a large organization make such a large policy change in its personnel decisions. Reports indicate that there has not been a major disruption to mission readiness or cohesion in the wake of the repeal. However, there are concerns that gay and lesbian service members may have for themselves in this new environment. Research from Rice University and Penn State examined whether military members would be comfortable working with gays and lesbians and whether gays and lesbians would receive equitable administrative actions.
Surprisingly, gays and lesbians elicited more comfort from participants than their straight counterparts. In addition, there were no differences in intended administrative actions in response to poor performance between gays and lesbians and straight individuals. Finally, participant’s attitudes towards openly gay service predicted their reported comfort ratings, but not their administrative actions. These results suggest that military members did not report being uncomfortable serving with openly gay individuals and that these individuals will not be penalized unjustly. This is good news, but it should be interpreted with caution since not finding evidence for something doesn't rule out the fact that it doesn't actually exist.
This study will be presented at the Annual American Psychological Association's Convention in July of 2013 by Larry R. Martinez, Charlie L. Law, and Michelle R. Hebl. For more information please contact Larry Martinez.
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.
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.
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.