Be yourself at work — it’s healthier and more productive

It has the potential for both positive and negative consequences.

Being yourself at the workplace is healthier and brings work efficiency, suggests a new study. It allows people to improve connections, form relationships with others and free their minds of unwanted thoughts.

Workers who expressed their non-visible stigmas experienced decreased job anxiety, decreased role ambiguity, improved job satisfaction and increased commitment to their position. Outside of work, these workers reported decreased psychological stress and increased satisfaction with their lives.

The study examining 65 datasets highlighting- what happens after people in a workplace disclose a stigmatized identity, such as sexual orientation, mental illness, physical disability or pregnancy.

Eden King, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of psychology at Rice, said, “the decision to express a stigmatized identity is highly complicated.”

“It has the potential for both positive and negative consequences.”

Although the study also suggests that people with non-visible stigmas (such as sexual orientation or health problems) who live openly at work are happier with their overall lives and more productive in the workplace. Their self-disclosure becomes a positive experience.

The study did not apply to people with visible traits, such as race, gender, and physical disability.

King said, “Identities that are immediately observable operate differently than those that are concealable. 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.”

“Because most people appreciate gaining new information about others, the expression of visible stigmas is likely to be less impactful.”

“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.”

Though, scientists noted that further work is required to understand the motivations for expressing different stigmas. According to them, this study

will be used to help workplaces and policymakers protect individuals with stigmas from discrimination.

The study was conducted by scientists at Rice University in collaboration with Texas A&M University, the University of Memphis, Xavier University, Portland State University and the University of California, Berkeley.

The study’s lead author was Rice alumnus Isaac Sabat ’12, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Texas A&M University. Co-authors were Alex Lindsey and Kristen Jones of the University of Memphis; Carolyn Winslow of the University of California, Berkeley; Ashley Member of Xavier University; and Nicholas Smith of Portland State University.

The study, “Stigma Expression Outcomes and Boundary Conditions: A Meta-Analysis” will appear in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Business and Psychology.

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