Every year, during the month of June, the LGBTQ+ community celebrates Pride Month in a number of different ways. At the Adecco Group, we want to engage with your perspectives and hear your stories. What does Pride mean to you? How can companies, including the Adecco Group, make the world of work more inclusive? What meaningful progress do you want to see going forward?
Brian McCabe, Global Head of Digital Production and Platforms at the Adecco Group, shared with us his story as an out leader in the workplace. The article was first published on LinkedIn. His words show how valuable and important it can be to be out about your queer identity at work and how important it is for organizations to provide an inclusive work environment.
Below, read his story and hear his advice for organisations and individuals in creating a more diverse and supportive work environment.
The most significant thing I ever did for my career was come out at work and be open about my queer identity. Coming out is never easy. It is a continuous process that requires a lot of your energy. However, if you put in that effort, the rewards can be limitless.
Queer people experience a baseline minority stress that comes with being LGBTQ+, then add that with the personal stress of bending yourself out of shape to fit in at work. If you look at it this way, then staying in the closet requires infinitely more energy than the act of coming out itself.
So, if I can give one piece of advice to queer people this Pride month, it would be to come out at work and keep that energy instead so you can bring your very best to work every day.*
Coming out at work doesn’t mean you owe everyone your coming out story.
My career to date can be divided into three sections and, in a way, tenure with three companies. The early part, my career in Dublin, was about me finding my feet in corporate life, which happened to juxtapose with coming to terms with my sexual identity. I spent the first two years of this job in the closet, which paralleled my private life.
This was the part of my career where I was felt the most stress and discomfort at work. Maybe it can be attributed to being young and new to corporate life, but the additional burden of not being authentic and true to myself weighed heavy.
At work, I hung around with a group of straight men, we would have lunch together, after-work drinks, etc., and I remember how I would bend out of shape to fit in with them. Watercooler moments where one of them would ask, “Did you see the match last night?” were met with my desperate attempts to “pass” and not be found out as gay. Faced with this question, my internal monologue would go something like this – “Match, what match? Football? Rugby? Let someone else speak first so you can figure it out.”
This panic was my reality then, though it seems ridiculous now: blend in, don’t be found out, don’t get caught. When I was finally ready to come out, I wanted to tell these after-work drinks buddies as a starting point.
However, when I was prepared to tell them, I remember one of them made an incredibly homophobic statement about one of our other co-workers. I had a large group of male friends from school, so I was used to male banter or “locker room talk.”
I remember looking him in the eyes and asking him if he really meant what he said, thinking he must be joking. He looked at me and said he meant every word. I did come out at that job, but I never did come out to that group of colleagues. I felt they did not deserve my words, my story, and my company any longer. I would be very out and open in this company, but who I choose to surround myself with during my daily corporate life shifted dramatically after that.
A new job and company -- and a new opportunity to be yourself.
I relocated to Switzerland almost 10 years ago with my husband and changed my career from Finance to Marketing and Communications. Starting fresh in a company allowed me the opportunity to be out from my very first working day.
I remember noticing visible LGBTQ+ role models in senior leadership, and I felt this company was a safe environment to be out - it was a fashion company, after all. I remember feeling how much easier the process was and gradually noticing how much more I was at ease in the office with this approach of being out.
When meeting a new colleague, a simple exchange where I would mention “my husband Anthony” would clarify my identity to them. It was natural and easy. As time passed there, I felt more and more comfortable in my skin, which allowed me to focus on delivering my best work. The stress and discomfort I associated with “passing” were replaced with calm and authenticity, which had the knock effect of me getting noticed as a high performer at work.
I managed to have a fantastic career at this company, continuously being promoted into higher seniority and scope roles over the 5 years I worked there.
Goodbye closet – hello career unlimited.
I am now working for the Adecco Group, an organisation whose purpose is to remove the barriers to work and create a future where everyone has access to a fulfilling career. This company has allowed me to accomplish things I would never have dreamed of starting out in my career.
I’ve rolled out a corporate intranet to over 30,000 colleagues, launched a new corporate website, and conceptualised, scripted and shot a film that I proudly saw debut on a giant screen at our leadership conference. I am now building a team and stepping into a new role as a people leader for the first time in my career, which I find incredibly rewarding.
Gone are the days of bending out of shape. Watercooler exchanges about football matches I meet instantly with a response: “sorry, I don’t watch soccer.” Ultimately, I’ve learned that trying to be anyone other than myself isn’t going to do me any favours in my career. And who knows, maybe one day I will become that visible queer role model for someone who is struggling to come out at work, and that thought makes me incredibly proud.
My advice for organisations is to create environments where queer people feel comfortable to be out. My advice is for my queer brothers, sisters, and nonbinary friends is that if you can live your truth at work, then do it. Stop bending yourself out of shape to fit in at the office. Release yourself from the stress of passing. Bring you, your best you, to work every day.
Happy Pride month, everyone.
*Being LGBTQ+ is still illegal in 37 countries, with many others having hostile governments or environments towards queer people. This advice is only for LGBTQ+ people who have a safe environment to come out at work, and it is a privilege to live in such an environment. For LGBTQ+ residing in countries where living openly is illegal or unsafe, my recommendation is to do what you need to do to stay safe and survive.