The impact of demographic factors on the way lesbian and gay employees manage their sexual orientation at work

Thomas Köllen (Department of Management, Institute for Gender and Diversity in Organizations, Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU), Vienna, Austria)

Management Research Review

ISSN: 2040-8269

Publication date: 21 September 2015



The purpose of this paper is to explore the influence demographic factors have on the way lesbians and gay men manage their sexual orientation at work.


Based on data taken from a cross-sectional survey of 1,308 gay and lesbian employees working in Germany, four regression models are proposed. The means of handling one’s homosexuality at work was measured by the 31 items containing Workplace Sexual Identity Management Measure from Anderson et al. (2001).


Results indicate that being in a relationship is related to increased openness about one’s homosexuality at work. Furthermore, it appears that the older and the more religious lesbian and gay employees are, the more open (and therefore less hidden) about their sexuality they are. Having a migratory background is related to being more guarded about one’s sexual orientation, whereas personal mobility within the country is not related to the way one manages one’s sexual orientation at work. Lesbians tend to be a little more open and less guarded about their homosexuality compared to gay men.

Research limitations/implications

The focus of this research (and the related limitations) offers several starting and connecting points for more intersectional research on workforce diversity and diversity management.

Practical implications

The study’s findings indicate the need for an intersectional approach to organizational diversity management strategies. Exemplified by the dimension “sexual orientation”, it can be shown that the impact each dimension has for an employee’s everyday workplace experiences and behavior in terms of a certain manifestation of one dimension of diversity can only be understood in terms of its interplay with other dimensions of diversity.


It is shown that manifestations of demographic factors that tend to broaden the individual’s coping resources for stigma-relevant stressors lead to more openness about one’s homosexuality in the workplace.



The author thanks Michael Schiffinger from the “Center for Empirical Research Methods” at WU Vienna for his support, and the two anonymous referees for their helpful comments and suggestions.


Köllen, T. (2015), "The impact of demographic factors on the way lesbian and gay employees manage their sexual orientation at work", Management Research Review, Vol. 38 No. 9, pp. 992-1015.

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