Running Head: LGB in the Workplace: A Review of Literature


LGB in the Workplace: A Review of Literature On the History, Challenges and Possible Solutions Dru Macasieb Brandman University

Running Head: LGB in the Workplace: A Review of Literature Abstract The federal government does not recognize the rights of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals (LGB), leaving the fate of these individuals into the hands of organizations. Challenges LGB members face in the work environment range from harassment to discrimination. Numerous studies have been conducted to determine the appropriate actions in order to


avoid conflicts involving sexual orientation and workplace. This review of literature will gather information and common themes across various studies of LGB issues in the workplace.

Running Head: LGB in the Workplace: A Review of Literature LGB in the Workplace: A Review of Literature on the History, Challenges and Possible Solutions According to organizational behavior theorists, individual identity can significantly affect the work environment (Robbins and Judge, 2009). One aspect of individual identity, sexual orientation, can often be overlooked by organizations today. The intent of this review of literature is to create a better understanding about issues related to sexual orientation in an effort to reinforce a positive work environment for all concerned. To accomplish this goal the focus of this review will be focused on lesbians,


gays and bisexuals (LGB). Three areas of discussion will be presented. First, a history of workplace equality and sexual orientation discrimination will be presented. Then, the current challenges facing gay men in workplace will be discussed. Lastly, possible solutions to these challenges will be researched. Workplace Issues in the Gay Community: A History of Selected Topics Equality Issues The United States Declaration of Independence states that, “…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These words have been the premises behind the enactment of many federal and state laws designed to protect our inalienable rights. Equal opportunity laws have been established to protect citizens, with certain characteristics, against discrimination. According to the US Equal Employment

Running Head: LGB in the Workplace: A Review of Literature Opportunity Commission, the federal government recognizes race, sex, religion, skin color, national origin, religion, age (40 or older) and disability as characteristics deserving protection against employment discrimination.


Sexual orientation is not a characteristic protected by the federal law (Lansing and Cruser, 2009). According to the Human Rights Campaign, there are 21 states that have established laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. This leaves 29 states, which do not have such laws, in the hands of organizations. The United States military is an example of how an organization may deal with sexual orientation in the workplace. This organization, chooses to deal with the issue by following a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (Wolf, 2009). This lets LGB members serve in the military as long as they are closeted. Bill Clinton enacted this policy in 1993, which was 16 years ago. According to a 2008 Washington Post-ABC News poll, 75 percent of Americans supported the rights of gays to serve openly in the military (Cohen and Dropp, 2008). The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy remains in affect today, but may not be the best solution in dealing with the issues of sexual orientation and workplace equality. This is because the policy chooses to avoid the issue rather than to resolve it. The Gay Community To get a better grasp on the significance of workplace issues in the LGB community, one needs to understand the scope of the issue. One way to do this is to get a better idea of all who may be affected. A poll conducted by Hunter College found that 2.9% of American adults identify themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual (Eleveld, 2009). According to the 2009 census, the adult American population is estimated to be 288

Running Head: LGB in the Workplace: A Review of Literature million. These numbers suggest that roughly 8,352,000 adult Americas identify themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Identity In order to understand the challenges LGB members face in the workplace, it is imperative to have an understanding of gay identity development (Nam Cam Trau and Hartel, 2004). The Cass Identity Model, developed by Vivienne Cass (1979), describes sexual identity development as a process of six stages: identity confusion, identity comparison, identity tolerance, identity acceptance, identity pride, and identity synthesis.


The first two stages deal with coping with negative and uncomfortable emotions. This may be in the form of guilt, shame, and depression. The third stage deals with tolerating the possibility of being gay, but not accepting it. Once one accepts, and no longer tolerates the possibility, then he has entered the fourth stage, identity acceptance. Identity acceptance is the stage, which Cass believes, where most men have difficulty adjusting within the workplace because at this stage is where they are “closeted.” This means that one accepts his newly found identity but does not let the outside world accept him. This may create emotional dissonance and frustration at work. In order to proceed to the final stages a of healthy sexual identity, Cass believes that the fourth stage must be overcome. Joe Petersen (alias) is an out gay man who works for an organization that is predominately men, believes that if the workplace is not a place, which acknowledges

Running Head: LGB in the Workplace: A Review of Literature gay rights, then it will be difficult for him to achieve social and emotional well-being,


which may affect his productivity in the workplace (personal communication, November 17, 2009) Organizational behavior theorist mentioned earlier, Robbins and Judge (2009) believe that identity is an important part of who a person is. It dictates how environmental factors are perceived, which then shapes behaviors. An individual’s behavior is what creates personality and values, which are important to the success of organizations today. Challenges Facing Homosexuality in the Workplace According to numerous studies on homosexuality in the workplace (Colgan, Creegan, McKearney, and Wright, 2007; Day and Schoenrade, 2000; Griffith and Hebl, 2002; Kirby, 2006; Nam Cam Trau and Hartel 2004; Ragins, Sigh, and Cornwell, 2007; Rostosky and Riggle, 2002; Wolf, 2009;) members of the LGB community, at some point in their careers, face harassment and discrimination. Harassment Effects on the Individual. In a research study by Nam Cam Trau and Hartel (2004), gay men experienced harassment in the workplace in the form of jokes from colleagues. They suggested that this form of abuse towards gay men might cause psychological damage as well as negatively affecting their self-esteem and selfconfidence. An individual who chooses not to disclose his or her sexuality at work, for fear of harassment, may have to live a life of secrecy at work. According to research studies

Running Head: LGB in the Workplace: A Review of Literature (Colgan et al., 2007; Day and Schoenrade, 2000; Griffith and Hebl, 2002; Kirby, 2006; Nam Cam Trau and Hartel 2004; Ragins et al., 2007; Rostosky and Riggle, 2002; Wolf, 2009;) this creates a large amount of stress and anxiety for gay workers. This impacts motivation, which is important for an individual’s success in an organization (Robbins and Judge, 2009). Effects on the Organization. Some working-class heterosexuals buy into the


notion that they benefit from gender stereotypes, sexual repression, and homophobia, but in reality they hurt themselves as well (Wolf, 2009). Instead of working together in a professional manner for a common goal, they corrode the potential for maximum efficiency. Discrimination Rostosky and Riggle (2002) studied 118 gay couples and found that one of the most serious threats to the civil rights and psychosocial wellness of a person who identifies as gay, lesbian or bisexual is job discrimination. In a similar study by Ragins et al. (2007), a sample of 534 LGB employees had fears about disclosing an identity other than heterosexual at work, which had a negative relationship with their careers and workplace experience and their psychological well-being. Negative work attitudes and the lack of career advancement among gays have been the result of stigma-based workplace discrimination (Kirby, 2006). It is has been suggested that fear, stereotyping, and lack of knowledge or understanding results in discrimination (Ragins and Cornwall, 2009).

Running Head: LGB in the Workplace: A Review of Literature Negative Work Attitudes. In a study of 220 gay men and 159 lesbians, Griffith and Hebl (2002) found that disclosing sexual identity at work led to overall job


satisfaction. However, Nam Cam Trau and Hartel’s (2004) found that in their study, some cases of their participants who disclosed their sexual identities were treated unfavorably which lead to negative work attitudes. Ragins et al, (2007) suggests that there is a more complex explanation of the processes that involves the disclosure of gay identity at the workplace. This complex explanation suggests that secrecy may be a necessary and adaptive challenge. LGB members must first assess the situation, overcome any challenges, and weigh out the pros and cons before their true identity can be disclosed. Career Advancement. Sexual orientation is not an obvious trait such as age, race or gender. This gives the individual the power to disclose their sexuality in the work environment. However, such power is not all that great, as it can become an issue (Kirby, 2006). Nam Cam Trau and Hartel (2004) found that although gay men may not experience a loss of career when coming out, it might limit career progression. According to one participant, when asked about career opportunities, he responded with, “…you may not make it because they don’t like you or approve of your lifestyle” (p. 633). Colgan et al. had similar findings in a study with 154 participants (2007). Both studies indicate that gay men fear that disclosing their sexual identities may hinder career progression.

Running Head: LGB in the Workplace: A Review of Literature Possible Solutions


If a person’s sexuality is part of their identity, and identity is crucial part of one’s behavior, then it is critical for organizations to create a healthy mental and emotional environment (Robbins and Judge, 2009). Large corporations have adopted policies that acknowledge the rights of gays to gain a competitive advantage; where the value of an employee is based on the talent and productivity one can exert, rather than the personal lifestyle one chooses (Lansing and Cruser, 2009) Disclosing sexual identity in the workplace is associated with the degree to which gay men are self-accepting and work in a place that has nondiscriminatory polices (Rostosky and Riggle, 2002). Griffith and Hebl research study found that gay men are most likely to acknowledge their sexual identities, report less discrimination, experience more favorable coworker reactions, and fair treatment from supervisors if their organization have written nondiscrimination policies that acknowledge and support gay rights (2002). Make It A Policy Since federal law does not protect against sexual orientation discrimination, it is up to organizations to create these polices. Griffith and Hebl’s research study found that participants agree that written policy will make a difference because it removes unclear and assumed rights, in favor clear and consistent standard operating procedures (2002). Furthermore, participants in the Colgan, Creegan, McKearney, and Wright study suggest that the policy needs to be championed, resourced and implemented by senior and line managers. They suggest that policies should not only be written, but also enforced

Running Head: LGB in the Workplace: A Review of Literature (2007). Provide Benefits Providing benefits for gay workers such as domestic partner benefits shows support and promotes inclusion of a sexual diverse environment (Colgan el at., 2007).


Domestic partner benefits for gay couples are offered in more than half of the companies on the Fortune 500. This includes companies such as American Express, IBM, Intel, Morgan Stanley, Motorola, and Wal-Mart (Robbins and Judge, 2009) Create a Welcoming Climate Ragins el at. (2007) highlighted the importance of perceived coworker support. It was found that environments that supported and welcomed LGB members demonstrated better teamwork. Participants in this experiment said that part of a welcoming environment would be if they had supervisors who were LGB members. Conclusion The United States Declaration of Independence was created to protect individual’s unalienable rights, yet sexual orientation, which is a part of a person’s identity, which is unalienable, are not among the rights, which our nation vows to protect. As a result, gay, lesbian, and bisexual employees may find it difficult to maximize their full potential because of harassment and discrimination. Sometimes harassment and discrimination is not present but the fear of it in the future can greatly handicap an individual’s ability. Organizations can lessen harassment and discrimination and the fear associated, by providing supportive environments.

Running Head: LGB in the Workplace: A Review of Literature References Cohen, J., & Dropp, K. (2008, July 19). Acceptance of gays in the military grows


dramatically. Washington Post. Retrieved from Colgan, F., Creegan, C., McKearney, A., & Wright, T. (2007). Equality and diversity policies and practices at work: Lesbian, gay and bisexual workers [Electronic version]. Equal Opportunities International, 26(6), 590-609. Retrieved from Day, N. E. & Schoenrade P. (2000). The relationship among reported disclosure of sexual orientation, ant-descrimination polices, top management support and work attitudes of gay and lesbian employees [Electronic version]. Personnel Review, 29(3), 346-363. Retrieved from Elveld, K. (2009). Poll: Only 2.9% of Americans are LGB. The Advocate. Retrieved from Griffith, K. H., & Hebel, M. R. (2002). The disclosure dilemma for gay men and lesbians: "Coming out" at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(6), 11911199. Retrieved from Kirby, S. (2006). American gay and lesbin student leader' perceptions of job discrimination [Electronic version]. Equal Oppertunities International, 25(2), 126--140. Retrieved from Langsing, P., & Cruser, C. (2009). The moral responsibilty of business to protect

Running Head: LGB in the Workplace: A Review of Literature homosexuals from discrimination in the workplace [Electronic version]. Employee Relations Law Journal, 35(1), 43-66. Retrieved from


Lyons, H. Z., Fassinger, R. E., & Brenner, B. R. (2005). A multicultural test of the theory of work adjustment: Investigating the role of heterosexism and fit perceptions in the job satisfaction of lesbian, gay, and bisexual employees [Electronic version]. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(4), 537-548. Retrieved from Nam Cam Trau, R., & Hartel, C. E. (2004). Once, career, two identities: An assessment of gay men's career trajectory . Career Development International, 9(7), 627-637. Retrieved from Ragins, B. R., Singh, R., & Cornwell, J. M. (2007). Making the invisible visible: Fear and disclosure f sexual orientation at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(4), 1103-1118. Retrieved from Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. A. (2009). Organizational behavior (13thth ed., ). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Rostosky, S. S., & Riggle, E. D. (2002). "Out" at work: The relation of actor and partner workplace policy and internalized homophobia to disclosure status. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 49(4), 411-419. Retrieved from Wolf, S. (2009). Sexuality and socialism. Chiacago: Haymarket Books.

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