“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
— Oscar Wilde
I’m a gay man who feels comfortable bringing my true self to work at the Olive Garden restaurant in Tracy, CA, where I’m a culinary manager. But not everyone feels so free.
I heard a lot about that at last month’s Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Washington, DC. Darden chose me to attend along with 16 other LGBTQ+ and ally team members from the company, and I was honored because Darden’s strong culture of diversity and inclusion is close to my heart.
When conference participants spoke about their difficulties coming out in the workplace, I thought back to my first day with Olive Garden in 2015 — I felt comfortable being my authentic self and did not have to hide who I was, then or now.
I attended several conference workshops about how to embrace your true self and how to create a strong culture and inclusive communication at work. When a panel of employees discussed how their organization supported them, it reminded me of Darden’s Pride Alliance and the culture of acceptance in all our restaurants.
I also learned that some employers don’t know how to support their LGBTQ+ team members. Darden, though, is ahead of the game. The company lives by its core values, cares about its team members and makes sure they feel supported.
I believe everyone should be their true self. If you wear a mask, you will not be working at your full capacity. Don’t be afraid to take off the mask and be yourself! You are great the way you are!