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How To Come Out To Co-Workers
By Top10BestDatingSites Staff
So, you've finally decided to come out to your colleagues. Maybe you're feeling more open with them and want to make friends - or maybe you're just tired of having to hide your Zoosk profile from them during lunch. Either way, coming out at work carries with it a host of practical concerns that need to be considered. Will the workplace become hostile to you? Will you be able to maintain your friendships? Could you lose your job? As with many things in life, you can hope for the best while preparing for the worst.
Contact Your Human Resources Department First
Regardless of the friendly level of office camaraderie between you and your co-workers, you should always seek to protect yourself by contacting the human resources department at your office before coming out at work. A discussion of sexual orientation often leads to a discussion of sexuality - and sexual discussions in the workplace are a ticking time bomb. All you need is for one co-worker to feel as though your conversation is "inappropriate," and you could find yourself on the wrong side of an employee dispute.
Always document any interactions you have with your human resources department, especially if you feel as though your HR department doesn't take you seriously regarding your inquiries. Speaking with your HR department can give you a good sense of how the upper management will react in the future. If your HR department is supportive, you'll know where to go should you encounter any difficulties. HR always appreciates being able to get ahead of potential issues rather than being contacted after the fact.
Ask Yourself How You Want to Come Out
At this point, you might be wondering: Should I come out at work? Often, this type of question arises because we imagine some big deal: streamers falling from the ceiling in the break room, and a giant cake that says "Congrats - I'm gay." But, think about it this way: a straight person never "comes out" as straight. You can acknowledge your sexuality in any way that you see appropriate. With family and friends, there is a certain feeling of social obligation; they share their lives with you, and you share your life with them, so a big discussion often occurs. But with co-workers, you really owe them nothing - up to and including knowledge about your sexual orientation.
Coming out means different things to different people. You could casually mention a fantastic new partner you just met on match.com, and that's coming out. You could also sit down with each of your colleagues individually and have a heartfelt discussion. It's really up to what you personally want and how close to your co-workers you really are.
Decide How Much You Want to Share
People are naturally curious when they encounter something they deem "different," and this can lead to prying, even insulting questions. For a large part, it's not malicious - just ignorant. But that doesn't mean that you should feel as though you have to share everything with them, especially when coming out in the workplace. Decide in advance exactly how much you want to share about your love life; there is nothing wrong with being a private person.
A question such as "Are you seeing anyone?" is innocent and even thoughtfully inclusive, but a question like, "So do you hook up online a lot?" is not so much. Even if you personally feel comfortable answering more explicit questions, you need to keep your job in mind; any explicit conversation in the workplace could get you in trouble, even if you didn't instigate it.
Look for a Mentor Within Your Company
If there's someone else within your company who is "out," you might want to consult with them before you out yourself. They will usually have some unique insights regarding how the process of coming out in your particular company affected them - and you'll be able to talk to someone who truly understands. In larger companies, there are often groups specifically for the protection of LGBT employees that you can talk to.
If your company is smaller or you cannot locate a mentor, consider contacting a local LGBT group for support, instead. They will also be able to educate you on your rights as an employee and any employment laws that you should know about. Keep in mind that you cannot be fired for coming out, but there are states in which you can be fired for "any reason," and then the onus is on you to prove that it was because of your sexual orientation. While the danger of this type of firing is significantly lessened in 2015, it still does exist.
Once you're out, you're out -- so take some time to get it right. While it's unfortunate that we have to think these things through, it's simply safer that way. And if, after coming out, you start to sense any negativity from your coworkers and supervisors, you should begin documenting everything immediately. Luckily, for the most part, many people find that it really isn't as big a deal as they thought it would be. Even better, now that you're not hiding your "secret," you can get active on the dating scene again -- perhaps through a site like CompatiblePartners and never again fear introducing your partner to your colleagues.