Acting completely yourself at work can sometimes seem daunting – especially if you have a marginalised identity.
But a new study suggests that those who do disclose a stigmatised identity in the workplace, such as “sexual orientation, mental illness, physical disability or pregnancy” are actually much happier than those who choose to keep it to themselves.
This has the “potential for both positive and negative consequences”, says lead author Eden King, associate professor of psychology at Rice university.
The team performed a meta-analysis on 65 different studies in the area, looking at “what happens after people in a workplace disclose a stigmatised identity”.
And it found that people with “non visible stigmas who love openly at work” (such as health problems or sexual orientation) are “happier with their overall lives and more productive in the workplace”.
This is because it “allows people to improve connections, form relationships with others and free their minds of unwanted thoughts”.
They also enjoyed “decreased job anxiety, decreased role ambiguity, improved job satisfaction and increased commitment to their position”. They also had decreased psychology stress and increases satisfaction with their lives outside of work.
Unfortunately, these benefits didn’t apply across the board. Those with “visible traits” (race, gender or physical disabilities for example) did not enjoy the same experience.
“Identities that are immediately observable operate differently than those that are concealable,” said King. “The same kinds of difficult decisions about whether or not to disclose the identity – not to mention the questions of to whom, how, when and where to disclose those identities – are probably less central to their psychological experiences.”
“Also, people react negatively to those who express or call attention to stigmas that are clearly visible to others, such as race or gender, as this may be seen as a form of advocacy or heightened pride in one’s identity,” she said.
The team hope that the research will help protect individuals from discrimination at work.
Regardless of the study’s finding, it’s important to stress that nobody should feel obliged to divulge any personal information about themselves to colleagues or bosses. Being yourself is wonderful – and that goes for the decisions you make at work, too.