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Exploring how gay men manage their social identities in the workplace: The internal/external dimensions of identity

Simon Roberts (Business School, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, UK)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 8 November 2011

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to look beyond the issue of disclosure/non‐disclosure in the workplace, to explore the ways gay men challenge, negotiate and conform in the two‐way process of managing their identities in what Jenkins terms the interaction order. In the validation of their external identities, the author aims to identify critical incidents and experiences in gay men's working lives in which they have resisted or challenged identities, labels and stereotypes ascribed by others.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were gathered through ten semi‐structured interviews with self‐identified gay men in a wide range of occupations and age ranges working in Bournemouth, UK.

Findings

The data focus on the fluidity of identity and the impact of organisational context. In their self‐presentations a number of strategies were deployed. The respondents experienced exclusion, stereotyping, being viewed as a piece of curiosity, silence, discomfort and a marked identity in the eyes of others. In response to these reactions, themes of compliance, conformity and adopting an educator role were uncovered.

Research limitations/implications

Although the findings presented are not necessarily generalizable, themes of exclusion, silence and marked identities were uncovered that echo many previous studies of gay men's experiences in the workplace.

Originality/value

Little research has been done on identity management in the workplace beyond the issue of disclosure of sexual identity. In particular, there has been limited focus on how gay men challenge, negotiate and modify the labels and social identities ascribed by others in what Jenkins terms the interaction order. Nor does there seem to be any research on whether gay men have modified the management of their social identities throughout their working lives.

Keywords

Citation

Roberts, S. (2011), "Exploring how gay men manage their social identities in the workplace: The internal/external dimensions of identity", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 30 No. 8, pp. 668-685. https://doi.org/10.1108/02610151111183199

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited