We can all agree that deep down everyone just wants to be accepted — quirks, flaws, blemishes and all. And I really mean accepted. None of this depthless tolerance or acknowledged nonsense. Whether it’s from a colleague, client, friend, family member or complete stranger, we all just want to belong to a community that embraces us unconditionally for who we truly are.
This idea of acceptance transcends Pride Month, too. Whether a part of the LGTBQ+ community or another marginalized minority community, everyone should feel comfortable and embraced for being their authentic self at every point of their day. This becomes particularly complicated, though, when it comes to the workplace.
In a 2018 survey from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation that surveyed employees across the United States, 46 percent of LGBTQ+ employees are closeted in the workplace. Nearly half of a community doesn’t feel comfortable, safe or ready enough to be themselves at their place of work.
And I was one of those people.
It’s not that I never felt unsafe to do so — I just wasn’t ready. Sure, I told some of my closest colleagues, and others I figured just knew. I’ve never been the type to put my personal life front and center in a professional setting, but over the past year I’ve pushed myself to be more authentic, transparent and genuine. Being out and embracing who I am in the workplace is something I’m grateful I’m able to do. I work in an office with some of the most caring and genuine people I’ve met, and without their acceptance and embrace, I’d still be within that 46 percent.
And while being myself and out at work is important to me, it’s also important to anyone within the firm who still remains hesitant about being their complete and total selves while at work. Having representation across the firm is important — especially within leadership. The more we rally around one another and support one another, the more inclusive our agency becomes.
Being your whole self at work is a vulnerable step, but one with rewarding results. Diversity in the workplace, especially in our field, has a tremendous effect on the work we do. Each one of us brings to work a unique perspective on the world that drives our creativity and productivity. As we begin to leave parts of who we are at the door, we begin to diminish why we’re all here in the first place. We’re here to bring perspective and diversity to our teams and clients. That’s what makes our work world-class and how we can stand out as an agency.
With a diverse team comes the opportunity to learn from each other and understand each other’s points of view. Since joining H+K nearly four years ago, I’ve learned a tremendous amount from my colleagues. I’ve learned about different religions and cultures and I’ve had honest conversations with colleagues about stereotypes and their points of view on cultural issues — all bringing us closer together and forging a bond of openness and inclusivity. As our team has become more open and willing to be our authentic selves around each other, our friendships have become deeper, we’ve built more trusting working relationships, and we’ve broken down the barriers of understanding each other.
I challenge you to push yourself to be more of your whole self wherever you go. Make the effort to listen, ask meaningful questions, and make sure you’re creating an environment in which diversity and inclusivity thrive.
Being ourselves is the thing we’re all best at doing. What we could all use some work on is embracing one another and challenging ourselves to accept everyone for who they are — quirks, flaws, blemishes and all.