STUDY: Your Being Closeted At Work Causes Your Co-Workers’ Job Performance To Suck

Thirty percent of gay employees are closeted at work. So imagine our delight when two recent UCLA studies showed that un-closeted employees can actually improve workplace performance.

In the first experiment, 27 male UCLA undergrads read one of two information sheets about their male co-worker: one version said their co-worker “was an interior design major from San Francisco who enjoyed cooking and dancing” and the other included mention of a boyfriend named Josh. The participant then sat down with his co-worker to complete a math test. Taking each participant’s SAT math score in consideration, researchers found “participants paired with an openly gay partner correctly answered significantly more questions on the math test than participants paired with an ambiguously gay partner.”

The second experiment was identical to the first except that it had 25 male participants playing a Wii shooting game that required “a high degree of [cooperative] interaction.” Taking each participant’s prior Wii experience into account, researchers found yet again that “participants with an openly gay partner scored significantly higher than those with a sexually ambiguous partner.”

Thus, being openly gay will at least help improve your co-workers’ math and video game skills if not their ability to do other cooperative work tasks. This is important especially considering the arguments against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell that claim openly gay soldiers will negatively impact a troops’ ability to work together.

But keep in mind that the students in this study had a “relatively low level” of homophobia. So these results could well change with actively hostile anti-gay coworkers. Though we assume that openly gay employees with accepting work environments probably perform better overall and experience less stress than their closeted or bullied gay counterparts.

So if you come out at work, print out this article, show it to your boss, and ask for a raise for having just improved the workplace performance of everyone in the building.

Image via Shawn Hitchins

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  • Maddie

    Great job

  • Maddie

    Great think

  • Samwise

    That’s an interesting study, but it probably only applies to people who are stereotypically gay. I would like to see a similar experiment, but with more conventionally masculine gay men. Instead of identifying the guy as “an interior design major from San Francisco who enjoys cooking and dancing,” describe him as “a political science major from Cleveland who enjoys rugby and hiking.” Give half the subjects the additional information that the rugby team he plays for is gay and that’s where he met his boyfriend Greg. I suspect the findings would be reversed: that the subjects would do WORSE with the openly gay guy, because they weren’t spending time wondering about his sexuality before, but now they are.

  • TMY510

    I say bullshit. This research makes no sense. If someone does better at a math, it just means that person has more math skills.

    Wii – “participants with an openly gay partner scored significantly higher than those with a sexually ambiguous partner.”
    sorry, if I’m playing a shooter with a str8 or gay person and they suck, it just simply means they suck.

  • TMY510

    I say bullshit. This research makes no sense. If someone does better at a math, it just means that person has more math skills. And who the hell plays with a Wii?

  • phallus

    Ya I guess it can be said that this study is a bunch of bullshit. Maybe the grads can study something else more worth while like the relation of dick size to ejaculation distance.

  • marcus backs men

    People slam “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy but they shouldn’t overlook the “don’t ask” part. It shouldn’t matter if someone is sexually ambiguous at work, because sexual preference doesn’t factor into work performance (in most workplaces). Work professionally and M.Y.O.B!

  • Hyhybt

    @TMY510: Last I heard, quite a lot of people play Wiis.

  • Samwise

    @TMY510: RTFA:

    “…after controlling for their SAT math scores…”
    “…after controlling for the participants’ Wii experience…”

  • Red Meat

    They are implying that the gay person who is openly gay does not have to worry about saying/acting gay and will act more natural without worrying about a secret being revealed with anything they say or do. The openly gay person is more at ease will work more naturally without thinking of what to share and comment on. That’s what I understood anyway.

  • Alan

    @TMY510: Sorry, I’ll trust a scientific study over some goober online who dismisses science as “bullshit.” It’s not even about the coworker being good or bad at math, it’s about having a relaxed environment at work.

  • Hyhybt

    @Red Meat: It doesn’t sound like that at all to me. We don’t know that the “gay” partner really was gay or that they knew who had read which description, and it would probably be a better-designed study if they didn’t know. The idea was to test whether the *coworkers* of out or closeted gay people work better.

  • oldgayvermonter

    WTF? Why are you wasting our time posting a “study” like this meaningless trivia? Really?…a whole 27 people followed by 25 more means anything? Did anyone there take Stat 101? I would love to see some real and statistically meaningful evidence on the workplace “vibe”, but this isn’t it. Just my own study of one commenter here…lol.

  • Alan

    @oldgayvermonter: Even a small sample size is statistically useful as long as you make the correct adjustments, which professionals do. You would have learned that had you actually taken “Stat 101.”

  • Rowan

    I think this study is bad science because of the lack of a true control group. I suspect what this study is missing is a group with a completely unambiguously STRAIGHT male working with a group. This study doesn’t have any way of knowing whether or not working with the gay person is lowering performance to begin with (it probably is). So this “improvement” is probably still lower than if the guy wasn’t gay at all.

    So I’d be wary asking for that raise.

  • Hyhybt

    @Rowan: That might be interesting… but it might also already have been done, and the more specific a study like this is, the better. Particularly with that small a group of participants. The question was basically “is knowing better than not knowing,” and to that, they got an answer.

  • xander

    Makes me wonder how the study would turn out if the unambigiously gay person was paired with a full-bore homophobe. The study was done using students with a “relatively low level” of homophobia. That doesn’t tell us much about how work performance changes when JoeBob Bubba meets Jon-Michel Fancypants.

  • Blibber

    Ambiguity and the unknown make people uncomfortable, so I guess it makes sense that people, or at least non homophobic people, would be more comfortable with someone who is honest about their sexuality.

  • Jacob Woods

    25 participants doesn’t impress me. If they used more participants and controlled for more outlying factors, I might take the study seriously. I feel this is pop – society research good for a bit of mental masturbation.

  • B

    No. 4 · TMY510 wrote, “I say bullshit. This research makes no sense. If someone does better at a math, it just means that person has more math skills.”

    The results do make sense – if you tell co-workers that someone “was an interior design major from San Francisco who enjoyed cooking and dancing,” that description fits a gay
    stereotype, so his co-workers are going to wonder if he’s gay or straight, and probably waste time talking about it. When you “mention … a boyfriend named Josh,” its pretty clear the guy is gay. Coworkers aren’t as distracted and concentrate more on the job.

  • Andy

    This wouldn’t have made it into the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology if it was popular psychology or junk science, and the number of participants was apparently judged to be appropriate by peer review, so there’s definitely something to it.

Comments are closed.