HOUSTON — Being comfortable at work is easier said than done. Many people feel as if they need to present a certain version of themselves to be successful in their profession, and often times that doesn’t coincide with their true interests, tastes, or preferences. However, according to a comprehensive study conducted across multiple U.S. universities, it’s healthier and more productive to just be yourself at work.
After analyzing 65 prior studies on what happens when employees reveal a typically stigmatized trait, such as sexual orientation, mental illness, pregnancy, or physical disability, researchers say their findings overwhelmingly indicate that those who are open regarding non-visible traits are happier with their lives and more productive on the job.
Employees who are open about themselves experience less anxiety, more defined work roles, greater job satisfaction, and an increased commitment to their job. The benefits even extended outside of the work environment, with these workers reporting less overall stress and an increased satisfaction with their lives as a whole.
According to Eden King, a co-author on the study and professor at Rice University, revealing these personal traits to co-workers allows people to form more meaningful relationships with their peers and free their minds of worrisome thoughts.
Unfortunately, researchers say that revealing more visible traits such as gender, race, or physical disabilities do not seem to produce the same results.
“Identities that are immediately observable operate differently than those that are concealable,” King explains in a release. “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,”
Researchers say it is important to note that every situation is different, and revealing a personal trait in the workplace can potentially produce both positive and negative consequences. King and her team stress that additional work must be done to understand peoples’ motivations for revealing different stigmatized traits, but they are hopeful their research will help encourage both workers and employers to be more accepting in the workplace.
The study is published in the Journal of Business and Psychology.