Of all things. . .

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by superstring01, Oct 9, 2010.

  1. superstring01 Moderator

    Venting. . .

    Okay. I want to make this--potentially lengthy--story as succinct as possible.

    I work for a rather large American retailer who (this part is relative to the story. . . at some point down the road) prides itself on being liberal (in fact, it calls itself it). Companies call themselves a lot of things, but mine does a great job of backing it up. Domestic partnership benefits for gays (but not breeders, which is a little odd if you asked me), aggressive recruiting of historically suspect classes (to the point that the company is the most diverse I've ever seen with a team of principals that is about half female, with more color than the general assembly of the UN), very--VERY--strict employee protections, massive green initiatives, the list goes on. All of this, in my opinion, has actually been great.

    Moving along. . .

    So, recently I was made "high potential" (which is corporate speak for favorably promotable). This, in turn, means that I get to attend the annual shareholder's meeting (like all companies, in spring), the fall seasonal meeting (that comes just before the beginning of the American Christmas season), and career development seminars/meetings (which give the H.P. employee the chance to develop specific skills and cavort with the company principals). Travel and sundry expenses paid by the company (which is really nice)

    At my level, the only way to promote is to get invited to, and attend, the seasonal meetings and development seminars. More than anything, it's all about building partnerships with the higher levels of the company and get noticed by those who recruit for specific positions/areas/territories (who otherwise would never know of your existence). Needless to say, my life revolves around my job and getting invited is--for better or worse--the single biggest highlight of the past five years of my life.

    Two weeks ago, I attended my first corporate development seminar (I've been to regional ones, but--again--the corporate ones are the only way to promote above my current rank). From the moment you land in the hotel, until you leave, you're being "monitored". Every discussion, every break, lunches, dinners, meetings. Every moment observed to see your "true" behavior. The seminar is basically two days: Casual dinner with the regional principals the night before (usually at a mid level restaurant: PF Changs, J.Alexanders, Claim Jumper, etc.) and a 9 hour meeting the day after. The "big day" is divided into three segments: Cafe Discussions (3 x 1hour sessions, 5 H.P.'s with 5 company principles), one large session (the 15 H.P.'s and about 16 company principles), and face-to-face "conversations" (one H.P. and two principles, at a table). The whole thing is very informal (no ties allowed) and there are few "targeted questions" (like in an interview). Lot's of challenging situations (mine was: "Why are we losing all our good people?" from the Harvard Business Review), that we are given the week before. We then, in the group setting, required to give a 15 minute seminar to all the H.P.'s and principals.

    Okay, enough details. . .

    I thought I did pretty well. While I'm not usually an intimidated guy, I couldn't help my nervousness being around various people who's titles started with "Senior Executive. . ." yada-yada-yada. But, I nailed my presentation (random speaking classes at college finally paid off) and handled the challenging questions and sundry interruptions well.

    Midway through the day, we took lunch. Together. No assigned seating, but very important to sit and chat. I sat next to my VP, across from another VP, a territory HR manager (who I knew well), along with two other H.P. candidates. The conversation was VERY casual.

    When professional conversations get casual, and include details about "personal life" [have you guessed where I'm going, Tiassa?], I tend to get a bit guarded. I've worked for Walmart and was told--flat out--that I'd never be discriminated against for being gay, but that I could never make it a point of conversation or bring it in to my professional life [despite the fact that Pat Curran is a huge fag-hag and is passionate about gay issues]. So, the conversation--thankfully--started with my SVP, who casually talked about her dog, and her recent divorce (and marriage to a physician). Lots of jokes about "past mistakes". Next up everybody yapped about their dogs, their kids and their spouses. Right before me, a guy who's story amounted to: "Yeah, my wife and I bought a goat farm and never planned on having children. Somehow we ended up with five kids and a herd that doubles ever year." My SVP throws in an obvious joke about "kids" and "kids" and "goats" and "large families". (Quick back story: I used to date my SVP's good friend, it ended amicably. She knows I'm gay, she bought me dinner when I was forced to work on my vacation/birthday for her visit to the Cleveland area this past week, and instructed my direct manager to pay for the dinner for me and my boyfriend at a restaurant of my choosing ["Well, Daniel, thank you for working on your birthday and coming in on your vacation. I've let Jen [my manager] know that we're buying your birthday dinner, as a thank you for your hard work on this new assignment. Just keep the receipt and turn it in the next time you're at work."). So the spotlight is on me. And I avoid mentioning anything about my boyfriend, and chose to talk about my cat (who, once again, almost died from a UTI). So, I casually explain that my cat needed surgery, and it cost me an arm and a leg. My SVP says, "Dan, how much did it cost?" Me: "About six hundred so far." Her: "Seriously, I love animals, and I'd spend that on a dog without hesitation, but I just couldn't see me dropping that for a cat." Me: "Yeah, I tend to be a dog guy too, but when I rushed the little guy to the vet and hinted that 'his time up', my boyfriend started sobbing, so I sighed, turned to the vet and said, 'Uh. . . dangit! Dr. Sandu, do you take American Express?'"

    Laughs. Giggles.

    On to the next person who talked about his recent illness and near residency in the restroom. "Oh, why's that?" "Um. . . we're eating lunch. I'd rather not go into details."

    Moving along. . .

    So, what kind of feedback did I get?

    Lots. Most of it positive. In fact, my direct manager & and VP were thrilled while giving me the details yesterday morning. As with most feedback, it was divided into "strengths" and "opportunities"

    Strengths: (1) Able to speak comfortably and clearly in front of groups. (2) Comes up with creative solutions challenging dilemmas and supports them with relevant facts. (3) A good sense of humor.

    Opportunities: (1) Possibly afraid to challenge the "status quo" (in other words, I didn't object enough and offer contrasting and professional alternatives, which is something they look for at these meetings). This is laughable because it's. . . well, it's me, though a bit understandable since they have to judge what they see. My first meeting. I felt the need to bridle this side (nobody gets promoted after the fist seminar, though you can get passed over the next time for being overly feisty). (2) Didn't focus enough on the "we" and answered questions using personal experiences instead of "group" experiences (which, I have to agree with, I focused a great deal on my growth and missed a few opportunities to talk about my team). AND. . . . (3) Can misjudge his audience. (My VP and direct manager [who delivered the feedback] even admitted to discomfort with this one). Basically, the fact that I CASUALLY mentioned "my boyfriend" (and that's it, not a single iota more), may make others uncomfortable and that, one day, I may be asked to take on an assignment in a "conservative" part of the country and they are worried that I can "keep my 'alternative lifestyle'** out of work and understand other people's comfort zones." When I inquired about, ". . . had I said, 'my wife' or 'my girlfriend' would we be having this discussion?" I was told, "Dan, we are not, in any way, implying that you have to pretend to be someone you aren't, but part of leadership is knowing your audience." When I inquired, "Are straight managers advised to 'know their audience' when discussing divorce, as I heard, or 'know their audience' when discussing their reproduction, as I heard; I was given a blank stare and told, "Look, this is very uncomfortable for all of us, and XYZ Corp is a very open and liberal company, blah blah blah blah. . . " I casually, accepted the criticism and moved the discussion on to a new point.

    I don't work to prove a political point. If I want to change the world, I'll go to city hall or Haiti. I'm at work to make myself and the company money, that's it. But, I'm feeling really disgusted right now. I want to challenge this point--in about a week or two--but have no clue how to do it. I'm stumped. I admit, I want a promotion, but I feel like I'm back in the US Navy, being escorted to a "secure dorm" to await "less than honorable" discharge, back in '97. For the first time in my career, I feel totally second class and feel totally deflated.

    So. Um.


    There you have it.


    **I'm not easily offended. In fact, I don't think I can be. But if I COULD be offended, I would have been. Like. . . "alternative" to what? Seriously!
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  3. Bells Staff Member

    Can I ask you a question?

    Are you supposed to know that a part of your audience are homophobic?

    The organisation you work for is supposed to be "liberal, blah blah", and you could very well have responded that since you knew the company was liberal and the rest of the 'blahs', you would not have assumed that the management of said liberal company would have had some who are homophobic and that in being yourself and open about who you were, you thought you knew your audience to be the "liberal company" and then challenge them about whether you were incorrect in that assumption. Because from what you were told, it seems that you were incorrect in judging your audience as being the liberal management of a liberal company and it seems they have misrepresented themselves as being a liberal company after all.

    You probably feel second class because that was how you were treated in that evaluation and the reason you were treated that way is because you dared to say the word "boyfriend".
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  5. cluelusshusbund + Public Dilemma + Valued Senior Member

    The gay issue aside... i cant emagine anyone wantin to be a part of all those hoops to jump thru.???

    It all has a creepyness about it... kinda like the "Stepford Wifes"... nice an shiny on the outside but rottin at the core.!!!
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  7. Neverfly Banned Banned

    If I may be so bold, if we remove you entirely from the picture and replace you with a straight man...
    You listed pretty well how they gauge and judge and observe everything. Including subtle details.
    And for him, it may well have been something else. Even something subtle which he knew he felt rejection but couldn't quite put his finger on "why."

    Removing him and replacing him with you, again-- Your reasons of doubt and fear run to not only a very personal level, but a political one.

    I have no idea what will happen in your future (If I did, I'd be hitting Randi up for a million) nor can I give any job related advice.
    But I can say this... You are not a persecuted, judged or even subtly disregarded gay man.
    You are one of MILLIONS of people that are judged for an absurd number of reasons.
    I don't doubt that you take pride in who you are. I don't doubt that you work well - you would not have gotten to where you are if you didn't work well.

    Let those that judge worry about the judgments.

    Just keep being you. No matter the outcome, you can say "I'm me." You can say it without regret. You can only regret their shortsightedness. But it's a little easier to accept that someone else goofed than to think you did.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2010
  8. superstring01 Moderator

    No. In fact, our corporate policy expressly protects employees from implied or actual harassment and/or discrimination based on sexual orientation. The "zero tolerance" policy explicitly extends to [quoting], ". . . any action or words which, either directly or indirectly, create an atmosphere of discrimination or isolation based on race, gender, religion, accent, country of origin, political affiliation, handicap, sexual orientation or any other personal characteristic which does not interfere with job performance." and "No person shall be made to feel that their unique personal characteristics, provided they do not interfere with their ability to perform their job, are unwelcome, undesirable or shameful." and "No corporate officer, vendor, contractor, supplier or customer may violate the protections enjoyed by XYZ corp's employees."

    My thought, and example I'm formulating (and tell me if this sounds stupid) is this:

    I'm of multiple racial ancestry. I may pass for Hispanic or even southern Italian or middle eastern. In conversation, I mention that "I will be visiting family back in Ghana". Would my manager have ever suggested that I, "refrain from mentioning my African ancestry because some people are uncomfortable with blacks. . . " and that, "one day I may be asked to take on an assignment in an area where there are racists who dislike blacks"?

    I want to say that, desperately, but I need to be tactful. I'm worried about sounding accusatorial. Though, the point you make is perfect.


    Yes. Boyfriend. One word. Nothing more.

    As I said, I tend to be pretty innocuous about my proclivity. This is mostly because, I passively accept that the world I live in is about half a century behind where I want it to be. But, for just a moment, I dared to assume that the word I used would go in one word and out the other. Noted. Then forgotten.

  9. Bells Staff Member

    You mean, a bit like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvP7cnmxlLM&feature=related?

    In theory, what you have stated as the policy sounds all grand and all. But then in practice, you get a not so gentle reminder that you apparently need to know your audience when you say the word "boyfriend".

    Roundabout way of saying 'shut up in front of management about being gay as it makes everyone uncomfortable'..

    Homophobia is not yet the new 'black' of discrimination. It's close, but not quite there.

    Anything you say about this can be construed as being accusatorial. You are questioning and challenging people's personal perceptions and homophobia, which they are dragging into the supposedly liberal company with feedback such as "know your audience".. It is the disgusting reality of the hypocrisy that pervades society. On the outside it's all smiles and 'we're open and liberal' bullshit. But deep down, there is that inherent belief amongst many that homosexuality is a perversion and they drag it into the open when they are face to face with what makes them the most uncomfortable. It is unfortunate that you are again face to face with this kind of discrimination and I am sorry to say that you will probably see it again in your lifetime. How you deal with it now, however, can make a change.. Small, but a change nonetheless. I think challenging it, even if it is accusatorial in nature or is perceived that way, is better than remaining silent and letting it eat at you in the long run.

    The way I see it is this. A job and a promotion is important. But self esteem and respecting one's self and who one is, is even more important. In short, don't sell out just for a promotion. Pandering to the bigotry will only ensure it continues and those who are uncomfortable with the words "my boyfriend" being spoken by a male will continue to think that their homophobia is acceptable. But that is just my take on it.

    That is the thing, you should not have to assume that or even hope that it is forgotten. Your sexuality is not important to your job performance, but it does not mean that who you are should be forgotten either, nor should you be told to remain silent about it and "know your audience", because your audience may be homophobic twats. It is not for you to know who is a bigot and who is not. And frankly, does your very liberal company care about the dollar that much that they would be willing to pander to the bigots in society or the "audience"?
  10. MacGyver1968 Fixin' Shit that Ain't Broke Valued Senior Member

    Damn Dan...that sucks...I'm sorry they made you feel 2nd class. But hey! Cheer up..your first class in our books!
  11. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I'm a little surprised that dropping the "boyfriend" word would still be an issue in what sounds like a modern, large multinational company. But then again, I know next to nothing about the corporate world. I wonder whether religion comes into it at all, and whether things would be the same in Australia as they are in the US.
  12. superstring01 Moderator

    Australia is only an inch more socially liberal than the USA. As members of the UK/USA Pact go: First, Canada; Second, New Zealand; Third, Britain, Fourth, Australia; and bringing up the rear at a significant distance (like, six laps behind), the USA. But that's in "laws".

    I'm certain that corporations being corporations, there are expectations that are neatly squeezed between the rules when it comes to middle management. You know: "This isn't a rule, but you better obey it or you'll stagnate in your current position forever."

  13. superstring01 Moderator

    Very good points. And good advice.

    Thank ye.

    A good question.

    It's a great company. Really. I suspect that most corporations would gas a few Jews if they knew it would make them money and if they could get away with it. But this one is really great. I love the people I work with and the people who work for me. So, um. Guess this is one of those ugly warts I have to get past on an otherwise beautiful face.

  14. Neverfly Banned Banned

    I know a worse place for warts...
  15. Bells Staff Member

    Just keep this in mind.. You know that you do well enough to earn or justify a promotion when one becomes available. If the 'know your audience' is a reason they give to not grant you a promotion, then it is something that you will have to confront with your managers.

    In the meantime, you can hopefully work towards turning around the 'know your audience' attitude that some of your managers appear to have.

    Personally, I find it disgraceful that you were given that type of feedback. But if they try and not give you a promotion and cite that as an excuse, the good people you work with be damned, I'd nail them to the wall for it. The reason I say that is because they may have set the ground work to not give you a future promotion and it stems from this line:

    Basically, the fact that I CASUALLY mentioned "my boyfriend" (and that's it, not a single iota more), may make others uncomfortable and that, one day, I may be asked to take on an assignment in a "conservative" part of the country and they are worried that I can "keep my 'alternative lifestyle'** out of work and understand other people's comfort zones.

    It is not for you to assume that your audience is homophobic and no employer has the right to expect that you not be homosexual for their bottom line.
  16. keith1 Guest

    I think its a little premature to find conclusion to your standing after this incident. The treatment of like fellow junior execs at your company was not revealed by you.
    If your revelation has positioned you as a known "token" example by the SVP, praise could be even now, unbeknown to you, being lavished upon your groom-able status, regardless of the words you heard that left you unsure and thinking otherwise.

    Just because you are homosexual doesn't guarantee you will have your boss's (or their bosses) job someday, so it is likely to interpret the replies you received as, "We hear you loud and clear, and would like your continued loyalty to allow us full control of the vertical and horizontal on the future PR directions of that disclosure."
    In that light, the encounter may not have been all that negative.

    Having said these kind words to you, let me make it clear that I find you pompous to assume that the heterosexual mindset is somehow archaic (by about a half century, in your words) and obviously "beneath contempt" to you. I hope you are not blasting these vibes on your fellow hetero "teammates".
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 9, 2010
  17. AlexG Like nailing Jello to a tree Valued Senior Member

    Would you like a little cheese with your whine?
  18. Bells Staff Member

    My, how very pompous of you.

    Who was that aimed at?
  19. keith1 Guest

    My, how very pompous of you
    The "head" on your avatar is no doubt a fine likeness.
  20. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Being liberal tends to come at the cost of actually being liberal.

    Liberalism is probably one of the most oppressive and self-contradictory systems.

    The conservatives are better - in the sense that they are at least unequivocal and clear about their expectations and demands.

    Then you are working for more than just money. You also work to maintain a certain self-esteem and self-image.
  21. superstring01 Moderator

    Who said the "heterosexual mindset was archaic"? I stated that prejudice is, and it's getting old.

    I have not assumed anything, I was told rather bluntly that the fact that I mentioned my boyfriend was somewhat unwelcome in a corporation that, up front, makes itself into the image of full equality.

    As to your claims about "liberalism" being oppressive. Name one great conservative historical figure? Name a conservative who changed the world for the better? Who improved the human condition? Care to take a stab? True liberalism is about freedom, and it was a "conservative" attitude that told an otherwise top performing manager that he should pretend to not be gay, not liberal.

  22. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    You are experiencing the oppression yourself.

    But is freedom possible?

    Like I said earlier:

    The problem with liberalism is that even though it seems nice in theory, it is often not doable in practice - at least not without lesser or greater costs.

    According to your company, you are apparently free to be liberal and gay - as long as this doesn't endanger profit.
    There is a delicate balance between profit and personal job satisfaction; one doesn't come without the other. Tons of books have been written about it.

    It seems though that the preferred type in all kinds of work is the average type, whatever the according definition of "average" is.

    Your boss is liberal, so he won't tell you flat out that you shouldn't be gay. He has given you hints though that being average is better.
  23. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Something to think about:

    In this film with SJ Parker (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0356680/), there is a scene with in roundabout this dialogue, at a family dinner table:

    Mother: I actually hoped one of my sons would be gay.
    Son's fiancee (SJP): Why would you do that??! Life is hard enough already, why make it harder?
    Fight and chaos ensue.

    Then, throughout the film, there is an elaboration of the importance of "being who you are", the upsides and downsides.

    Even though that statement "Life is hard enough already, why make it harder?" can seem anti-gay, it is also an expression of a realistic concern over whether it is worth it to maintain a potentially controversial personality and life-style.

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