Self-Revelation in Organizations

“The fact that I’m gay doesn’t hinder my on-the-job performance, so why conceal it anyway. ” Fahad (ex-student of FAST-NU) People reveal information about themselves (sexual orientation, religious/political preferences, past experiences) for a number of reasons. Some individuals have a predisposition or a tendency to reveal and are, by nature, disclosers. This personality characteristic has been identified in individuals who have a tendency to self-disclose. The main questions, however, is: When do people disclose? How do people disclose?

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And why do people disclose. Derlaga (1984) suggests that individuals reveal information about themselves to increase intimacy and to influence the communication process. I have built on their model by examining the decision to self-disclose for gay individuals in the workplace. Another reason people self-disclose (or choose not to) beyond the natural tendency and desire for intimacy, is to fit with the environment. This can be done for instrumental reasons, such as noted in the impression management literature, or in response to social norms. Ginzel, et al.

(1993) suggests that when an organization faces threatening or stigmatizing events, the leaders attempt to manage the impressions of their “audience. ” In the same way, individuals with stigmatized identities will manage others’ impressions of them based on their audience’s expectations. In a later section, I have discussed the audience and situation in which the employee chooses to come out – if it is an audience that expects gayness or that rewards heterosexism – and how they influence the self-revelation decision and the audience reaction.

Finally, individuals may choose to reveal to have a consistent sense of self in their work and life realms. Theories of work/life balance suggest that a consistent identity across the various realms of one’s life enhance satisfaction and well-being (Frone, Russell, ; Cooper, 1992). In addition, research on work/life conflict illustrates that employees whose roles are similar in the workplace and in their personal life have less internal conflict. Psychologists suggest that ones’ identity as a lesbian, gay, or bisexual is important to their work as well as other aspects of their life (D’Augelli ; Patterson, 1995).

Given the above, I believe that gay individuals will often be motivated to come out to promote a consistent sense of self and well-being. Reasons to Not Reveal: Stigmas and Safety “When I step out the room, I can hear chuckles at my back – it’s sick. Right now I’m at and entry level position in my software house but I’m afraid, if the time comes, they (senior management) will prefer a straight, with same level of abilities, over me. ” Despite the pressure to be “out,” there are important, concrete reasons for people to remain invisible, to not self-reveal personal information.

For example, gay people who are out bear the social stigma for themselves. Many individuals do not have the confidence or desire to be labeled in public when such consequences are involved Gay people have experienced a long history of oppression as have others who reveal socially unacceptable characteristics of themselves such as mental illness or spouse abuse (e. g. , D’Emilio, 1983; D’Emilio and Freedman, 1988). Lynching and gay bashing are today still prevalent.

Studies still demonstrate high rates of societal disapproval of homosexuality (National Opinion Research Center, 1988) and, more specifically, organizational disapproval of homosexuality. Numerous personal accounts written by gay people present tales of hostility and abuse directed at people because they are gay (D’Emilio, 1992). Gay people who do come out are subject to a host of discriminatory practices, including losing their jobs, being evicted from their homes, and receiving poor or inadequate social attention

In addition to workplace, legal, and social discrimination, gay people are confronted with the omnipresent threat of physical violence simply because they are gay. Gay men have often been harassed and brutalized by their relatives, co-workers, and schoolmates. The physical threats that gay people face are directly linked to visibility; staying in the closet is reinforced by both individual assaults and larger social forces. In a range of social contexts, from jobs to schools to families to the streets, gay people have justifiable fears of organizational discrimination, and physical violence.

Given an overwhelmingly hostile environment imbued with the power to act on that hostility, we can view gay peoples’ visibility decision-making patterns characterized by two assumptions about the environment: (1) people often discriminate against individuals who reveal that they are gay (stigma), (2) gays who feel that revealing their homosexuality might hurt them or cause conflict in their work group are less likely to come out (safety).