Concealing sexual orientation may have an adverse effect on workplace function

Published on September 17, 2011 at 5:52 AM · No Comments

Could working with an openly gay individual undermine a co-worker's on-the-job performance? Not likely, according to a recent UCLA Anderson School of Management study. In fact, concealing one's sexual orientation may actually have an adverse effect on workplace function.

“While much research examines what happens to individuals who conceal an identity, there is almost no work examining what happens to a person who interacts with someone forced to hide their sexual orientation”

The findings of a six-month study, conducted by Benjamin Everly and Geoffrey Ho, Ph.D. candidates at UCLA Anderson, and Margaret Shih, Associate Professor in Human Resources and Organizational Behavior at UCLA Anderson, suggest that policies that introduce uncertainty into social interactions, such as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", may harm rather than protect performance.

The study results, recently published online in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, come at a controversial juncture of US politics with the Congressional repeal of the 18-year-old 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT) military policy, effective Sept. 20, 2011.

"While much research examines what happens to individuals who conceal an identity, there is almost no work examining what happens to a person who interacts with someone forced to hide their sexual orientation," says Everly. "Our studies are the first to examine how policies such as Don't Ask, Don't Tell affect the performance of people working with gay teammates."

These studies focused on providing a deeper understanding of the role concealable identities may play in social interactions and determining whether disclosing or revealing sexual orientation hinders or improves performance. To that end, the researchers designed tests to measure the cognitive and sensory-motor skills of more than 50 UCLA undergraduate men, each of whom were paired with a gay confederate who would either disclose or conceal his sexual orientation.

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