Coming out to colleagues can help you cope, and 'hope', better in the workplace. Photo: Getty
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Is perseverance the key to coping as an LGBT employee?

There is evidence to suggest that a high level of psychological flexibility, something LGBT employees often need to develop at work, can help people cope better, and indeed flourish, in the workplace.

The challenges faced by LGBT individuals in the workplace, and the impact these challenges can have on their mental health, are well-documented. But with Mental Health Awareness Week fast approaching, I’d like to go one step further and focus not only on the difficulties faced by LBGT employees, but how they can rise up and meet these challenges.

Significant steps are being taken in attempting to understand how LGBT employees’ cope with the challenges they face in the workplace. From this research, the concept of perseverance is emerging as key.

Let’s talk for a minute about what LGBT employees may face in the workplace. To begin with, disclosing one’s sexual and/or gender identity can be a huge source of anxiety for some people. It can involve a series of tricky and stressful calculations about the potential costs and benefits of coming out to one’s colleagues and boss.

If one manages to negotiate coming out at work successfully, there is always the potential issue of negative or discriminatory behaviours to contend with. These may be subtle, and even unintentional, such as people making bizarre assumptions about someone’s interests or activities based on their sexual and/or gender identity – for instance, the assumption that your gay male colleague will have the ability and/or desire to advise you on your fashion issues. However, they may be more insidious, such as when LGBT people are intentionally denied promotions, career advancements and access to important resources.

But the issues I describe are not purely based on my own observations. Ample research has indicated that both coming out, and experiences of discrimination in the workplace, can have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of LGBT employees.

Yet studies have shown that perseverance, or the ability to bounce back when beset by problems, may offer LGBT employees some protection from these challenges. For example, Kwon and Hugelshofer (2010) found that the characteristic of hope (or the belief that one can persist through challenges and accomplish one’s goals) buffered the impact of workplace discrimination on LGB employees’ wellbeing. In another study, Smith and Gray (2009) drew attention to the importance of hardiness (or the ability to shake off setbacks and proceed even when success seems uncertain) to LGBT people’s coping efforts.

I am currently working to add to this field by examining psychological flexibility in LGBT employees. According to already existing research, psychological flexibility describes a form of perseverance in which people are able to take actions towards achieving their goals and values, even when they are experiencing difficult or unwanted internal events.

Whilst psychological flexibility has not yet been examined in LGBT employees, there is evidence to suggest that people higher in this quality are better able to cope, and indeed flourish, in the workplace.

In addition, while people have naturally occurring levels of psychological flexibility, it is also a quality that can be enhanced through training, and research has indicated that such enhancement can, in turn, improve work-related health and performance.

This latter point is particularly important because it leaves the door ajar in terms of utilising psychologically-informed training interventions to help LGBT employees cope with the stresses of being out in the workplace.

It would be quite easy to get disheartened by the fact that LGBT employees may have to work hard at persevering in order to survive the stresses of being out in the workplace. But unfortunately in-group favouritism and out-group discrimination appears to be a natural human tendency.

Many organisations are doing a great job of promoting LGBT rights and implementing strategies to prevent unfair treatment of LGBT employees, and I would recommend they pay heed to psychologically-informed solutions to help support this. But until the day comes where LGBT discrimination is no longer an issue, we’ll need to keep on persevering.

Dr Jo Lloyd, Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London

Photo: Getty
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Jeremy Corbyn sat down on train he claimed was full, Virgin says

The train company has pushed back against a viral video starring the Labour leader, in which he sat on the floor.

Seats were available on the train where Jeremy Corbyn was filmed sitting on the floor, Virgin Trains has said.

On 16 August, a freelance film-maker who has been following the Labour leader released a video which showed Corbyn talking about the problems of overcrowded trains.

“This is a problem that many passengers face every day, commuters and long-distance travellers. Today this train is completely ram-packed,” he said. Is it fair that I should upgrade my ticket whilst others who might not be able to afford such a luxury should have to sit on the floor? It’s their money I would be spending after all.”

Commentators quickly pointed out that he would not have been able to claim for a first-class upgrade, as expenses rules only permit standard-class travel. Also, campaign expenses cannot be claimed back from the taxpayer. 

Today, Virgin Trains released footage of the Labour leader walking past empty unreserved seats to film his video, which took half an hour, before walking back to take another unreserved seat.

"CCTV footage taken from the train on August 11 shows Mr Corbyn and his team walked past empty, unreserved seats in coach H before walking through the rest of the train to the far end, where his team sat on the floor and started filming.

"The same footage then shows Mr Corbyn returning to coach H and taking a seat there, with the help of the onboard crew, around 45 minutes into the journey and over two hours before the train reached Newcastle.

"Mr Corbyn’s team carried out their filming around 30 minutes into the journey. There were also additional empty seats on the train (the 11am departure from King’s Cross) which appear from CCTV to have been reserved but not taken, so they were also available for other passengers to sit on."

A Virgin spokesperson commented: “We have to take issue with the idea that Mr Corbyn wasn’t able to be seated on the service, as this clearly wasn’t the case.

A spokesman for the Corbyn campaign told BuzzFeed News that the footage was a “lie”, and that Corbyn had given up his seat for a woman to take his place, and that “other people” had also sat in the aisles.

Owen Smith, Corbyn's leadership rival, tried a joke:

But a passenger on the train supported Corbyn's version of events.

Both Virgin Trains and the Corbyn campaign have been contacted for further comment.

UPDATE 17:07

A spokesperson for the Jeremy for Labour campaign commented:

“When Jeremy boarded the train he was unable to find unreserved seats, so he sat with other passengers in the corridor who were also unable to find a seat. 

"Later in the journey, seats became available after a family were upgraded to first class, and Jeremy and the team he was travelling with were offered the seats by a very helpful member of staff.

"Passengers across Britain will have been in similar situations on overcrowded, expensive trains. That is why our policy to bring the trains back into public ownership, as part of a plan to rebuild and transform Britain, is so popular with passengers and rail workers.”

A few testimonies from passengers who had their photos taken with Corbyn on the floor can be found here