The study, “Trans-parency in the Workplace: How the Experiences of Transsexual Employees Can Be Improved,” is one of the first forms of empirical research — if not the first — on transsexuals’ experiences at work, says Michelle Hebl, the study’s co-author and a professor of psychology at Rice.
“Our research sheds light on this severely understudied population’s common workplace experiences and how such experiences can be improved,” she says.
For the study, 88 transsexual employees in the United States were surveyed about their workplace experiences to determine what factors impact their job satisfaction and organizational commitment. The more open they were about their gender identity, it found, the happier and more productive they were.
The study, which will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Vocational Behavior, also found transsexuals who were more open with their family and friends about their lifestyle and who identified strongly as transsexuals were more likely to disclose their gender identity in the workplace than those who were less open and strongly identified.
“It’s important for individuals to have a consistent identity in the workplace and at home,” says Larry Martinez, a co-author of the study and Rice graduate student. “Having a strong support system at home can give transsexual employees the courage to disclose to their colleagues in the workplace.”
The finding of greater satisfaction at, and commitment to, work does come with one caveat: If work environments arent supportive and if co-workers or supervisors react negatively to their news, those engagement factors decline.
“Often, what’s good for the worker is good for the workplace — in this case, an open and accepting culture is really a win-win situation for all involved,” says Enrica Ruggs, also a co-author and Rice graduate student.
“The employees feel accepted, are more productive and have better experiences with co-workers,” she says. “This creates a positive working environment that may lead to decreased turnover and greater profits.”
The research, Ruggs adds, could be generalized to other groups of people who face workplace discrimination and struggle trying to decide whether to disclose their concealable stigmas, such as sexual orientation, chronic illness or a learning disability.