How prior knowledge of LGB identities alters the effects of workplace disclosure


Decisions to reveal one's sexual orientation are assumed to be a volitional choice. Prior research has shown, however, that people often learn about the lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) identities of others through indirect means, such as gossip and stereotypical cues (Ambady, Hallahan, & Conner, 1999; Colgan, Creegan, McKearney, & Wright, 2007). We conduct two studies to determine the effects of these forms of prior identity-related knowledge on disclosure outcomes. First, a pre-test of study assumptions demonstrates that recipients of minority sexual orientation disclosures often have prior knowledge of those identities. Second, a survey study examining the target's perspective finds that LGB people often suspect when others have prior knowledge of their identities, and this expected prior knowledge moderates the relationship between identity-management and subsequent experiences of discrimination. Lastly, a lab experiment manipulating the level of prior identity-related knowledge establishes that this information directly influences interpersonal workplace outcomes of disclosures through perceptions of awkwardness but not through liking. Together, these studies demonstrate support for our model of prior identity-related knowledge and highlight the importance of examining both prior identity-related knowledge as well as identity management strategies in predicting LGB workplace experiences.

Publication Title

Journal of Vocational Behavior