Pride Month: Adam Burgess on being yourself in the workplace

5 mins

June is Pride Month – a month dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ+ communities all around the world, as well as highlighting what still needs to be done to create inclusivity.

To mark Pride month, we spoke to one of Sellick Partnership’s Senior Managers, Adam Burgess, about his journey, how he supports the candidates and clients he speaks to and why is it crucial for LGBTQ+ colleagues to be their authentic selves at work.

A little bit about you

My name is Adam Burgess and I am a Senior Manager at Sellick Partnership, specialising in ICT & Digital Technology. I am also a very proud member of the LGBTQ+ community and sit on the Diversity Champions committee within the business.

My coming out story wasn’t one of being ‘out and proud’ from the off, and it took me a long time to almost come to terms with my sexuality and feel comfortable opening up to my family and friends. It took even longer to have the confidence to talk about my personal life with work colleagues in previous roles, I suppose I thought they would view me differently.

I used to refer to my then boyfriend, and now husband, as my 'partner' in order to not give away my sexuality, which I look back on now with sadness as I am so proud of the life we have built together. Funnily enough I was watching an episode of Queer Eye recently and I instantly connected to a term called 'internalised homophobia', which is essentially internally oppressing your sexuality because you feel it is somehow wrong or immoral. This stems from discrimination in the wider society which is slowly getting better but is still quite apparent.

I am sure a lot of LGBTQ+ people can identify with internalising their true selves at some point, in order to be seen as what they perceive, a more positive external image and this can be very damaging on someone’s mental health. We all know that bottling up emotions and feelings can lead to severe mental health implications and this act of masking essentially what makes us who we are is no different.

Now it gives me real confidence to see people from the LGBTQ+ community in positions of authority, as well as there being much more exposure on social media. It really does give you the confidence to be yourself when you see others being accepted.

How do you feel supported at work?

At Sellick Partnership we put great emphasis on diversity and inclusion which gives me a platform, not only to support colleagues and embrace their differences, but to educate people about my community.

I feel I can genuinely be myself at Sellick Partnership and I have never experienced any kind of discrimination. I know this makes me very lucky as it is very much still a problem in the workplace, especially in certain environments.

Adam with his colleagues in Newcastle (L-R Laura Davison, Adam Burgess, Ellie Turner, Maz Williams, Kathryn Heeler and Jake Winship).

How do you support clients and candidates?

At Sellick Partnership we have a team of Diversity Champions who strive to champion candidates of all backgrounds and characteristics. We also work with clients to support and develop their recruitment activities, to ensure it is a fully inclusive process, from assisting with language in job advertisements, diversity and inclusion monitoring and the structure of interview questions.

It is crucial to support everyone in their efforts to create a diverse workforce and it should be at the top of business’ priorities. Diversity can lead to a more productive environment, full of people with differing skills, perspectives, ideas and backgrounds.

Clients also must understand how vital it is to have a diverse Senior Management Team for the exact same reasons – different people with different experiences and circumstances will lead to better decision-making as things will be considered from a much wider perspective.

Why is it important for LGBTQ+ colleagues to feel empowered to be their authentic selves at work?

Everyone is different of course and for me personally, if I feel comfortable to be myself at work without the fear of discrimination or judgement, I’m able to be the best I can be without the constant self-evaluation of how I am being perceived.

I know how hard it can be to constantly monitor how you speak, what you say and how you act. So many people still hide who they genuinely are and it’s a battle you are having with yourself internally which is absolutely exhausting. It’s so important that people don’t feel this way as they ultimately will never be able to perform at their true potential.

How can companies help LGBTQ+ colleagues? Maybe this is people that haven’t come out at work?

I think it is as simple as having a real support network and knowing that these individuals can be their authentic selves whilst at work. I am a very open person, and I would like to think that if anyone was struggling (not just with their sexuality but with any aspect of their personal life) they could come to me for support.

Sellick Partnership is all about their people and, from the Managing Director and Senior Management Team down, we allow people to be comfortable with who they are and actively celebrate our differences. Ultimately, education is the key, because only with a real understanding of something can someone know what is appropriate behaviour and what may constitute as discrimination.

Sexuality can be a difficult and very personal thing to navigate, therefore people should be given the space and/or time to understand themselves, and feeling as though they are in an environment where it’s ok to vocalise how they identify is a huge step in the right direction.

Allyship can create an all-together workplace, how important is support from co-workers?

Without the support of my friends, family and work colleagues, I simply wouldn’t be in the position that I am now. I take great comfort in knowing that my colleagues in the Newcastle office and across the business don’t judge me for my sexuality but for my ability as a recruitment professional.

I can say with 100% confidence that they see me as a valued colleague, irrespective of personal preferences, and I’m just as sure that they know this is reciprocated from me.

The LGBTQ+ community is a strong community but we are a minority. There’s no question about it, I really do rely on my allies in the business and the strong relationships with colleagues that I have.