Let’s continue our being out at the office discussion with a look at office etiquette for gay guys. As a group, we tend to every open about things that make people uncomfortable. So, awareness of corporate culture is even more important for us. You should be free to share in the same way that everyone else does. Negative reactions to over-sharing aren’t always homophobia.
Know Your Corporate Culture
In some offices, people share the details of their weekends very openly. There may even be conversations about hookups or dating apps. In other, very little personal sharing is done or encouraged. The first thing you need to do, particularly when starting a new job, is figuring out where your organization stands. Pay attention.
Notice what your colleagues are sharing with one another. Pay particular attention to the amount of detail. How intimate are the conversations? Make sure that you spend enough time observing to really understand what’s going on. You want to avoid inappropriate sharing. The last place you want a “too much information” moment is at work.
It can be very easy for us to be overly sensitive to homophobia. This is particularly true when in a new environment. Once you have a good idea of what the people around you are sharing you can begin to share yourself. It’s fine to pull back a little bit and test the waters. But, you want to eventually feel like you’ll sharing as freely as your peers.
If you feel like you’re facing homophobic reactions from the people around you it’s important to take a step back. Evaluate any sensitive emotional situations with a clear head. For instance, if a male colleague mentions a new girl he’s been dating it’s perfectly appropriate for you to mention someone you are. If the other person reacts try not to jump to conclusions. They may just be reacting with surprise because they weren’t aware of your sexuality. Your best course of action then is to clarify.
There will be times when homophobia is the issue. There’s nothing wrong with speaking up at that point. Ask the person if they have an issue. Don’t let a single bad experience deter you. As you have more conversations notice other people’s reactions.
If you discover that there are a lot of negative, homophobic, reactions in the environment then it’s time to make a plan to do something about it. That can be anything from reporting to human resources, to finding a more queer-friendly work environment. How you proceed is up to you. Closeting yourself is never your best option.
Dealing with Other Queer Folks
It can be a challenge to deal appropriately with other queer people at work. It’s important to remember that just because someone is queer, doesn’t mean that they’re as open as you are. The last thing you want to do is to accidentally “out” someone. So proceed with respect and caution.
I’ve always found that being out myself, and making sure the other person knows, is helpful. If they do come out to you then ask them what they’re comfortable with. Respect their boundaries. If they don’t share with you then assume they don’t want to share with anyone else either. It’s their choice.
Office etiquette is really a matter of common sense. Navigating politics can be a bit trickier for us queer folk. But, by paying a little attention you can weather the storm and build some solid relationships at work. You may even pave the way for other people to be more open.