The Relationship Between Sexuality–Professional Identity Integration and Leadership in the Workplace

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Abstract

How do members of minority groups navigate identity in the workplace—such as being both a sexual minority and a working professional? This article extends research on identity integration (II)—perceptions of multiple social identities as compatible versus conflicting—to examine the intersection of personal identity (sexual minority) and professional identity, and the effects of II on how people influence others. The current research used a working adult sample of sexual minority individuals, leaders and nonleaders, to establish a sexuality–professional II scale (adapted from the bicultural II scale that measures perceived conflict and distance between two cultural identities) and to explore the relationship between individual differences in sexuality–professional II and leadership and power tactics. Results showed that individuals higher in II (i.e., perceived compatibility between these personal and professional identities) self-reported that they were more likely to use relational tactics that consider the needs and feelings of others, specifically personal power tactics and transformational leadership tactics. Results also showed that higher sexuality–professional II was associated with perceptions of a more supportive work environment. Further, the relationship between sexuality–professional II and tendency to use relational tactics was mediated by perceived work environment. Together, these results suggest that integration across personal and professional identities is associated with a more positive work environment, which in turn facilitates the incorporation of relational concerns when influencing others. These findings have theoretical and practical implications for navigating multiple identities, creating a supportive work climate for sexual minority individuals, and managing diversity objectives in the modern workplace.

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