Friday, March 09, 2007

Gay Men and the Corporate Ladder. Do We Make Better Bosses?

According to this month's Details Magazine, a study has revealed that gay men do make better bosses and supervisors.
Why Gay Men Make the Best Bosses
America's most desirable managers all have one thing in common: homosexuality. —By Danielle Sacks—

Only three months into his senior manager gig at a Fortune 500 company, Matthew Klein was in way over his head. "I finally walked into my boss's office, threw my hands in the air, and said, 'I'm feeling totally overwhelmed and inadequate,'" he explains. "I basically had a breakdown." Many managers would have reacted to such a display by telling him to get back out there and grow a pair. But Klein's boss had the opposite reaction: First he reassured Klein he was doing a great job, then he helped him prioritize his workload so that it became manageable. "It's not like he's this fuzzy guy who would reach across the table and hug you in a meeting—he's tough as nails," says Klein of Robert Ollander-Krane, who is director of learning and development for the company. "But he allowed me to be completely honest about my circumstances. Now we have this huge foundation of trust."

Wouldn't that be nice—a boss who actually gave a damn. And while it's not conclusive, evidence suggests that one of the reasons Ollander-Krane is so effective is that he's part of a new breed—gay managers—who could be becoming America's most desirable bosses.

In The G Quotient: Why Gay Executives Are Excelling as Leaders . . . and What Every Manager Needs to Know, author and USC business-school professor Kirk Snyder argues that gay bosses embody a style of personalized attention that allows high-maintenance Gen Xers and Yers to maximize their performance. "Gay executives tend to look at how each individual brings unique abilities, and they see their job as figuring out how best to take advantage of those skills," he says.

In fact, during Snyder's five-year study of American executives, he stumbled on some startling findings: Gay male bosses produce 35 to 60 percent higher levels of employee engagement, satisfaction, and morale than straight bosses. This is no small achievement: According to human-resources consulting firm Towers Perrin, only a measly 14 percent of the global corporate workforce are fully engaged by their jobs. And the Saratoga Institute, a group that measures the effectiveness of HR departments, found that in a study of 20,000 workers who had quit their jobs, the primary motivator for jumping ship was their supervisors' behavior.
So what makes gay bosses different? It may have to do with the way they survived high school. "Gay people are constantly having to dodge and weave and assess how and where they're going as they grow up," says Snyder. "And that manifests itself as three huge skills: adaptability, intuitive communications, and creative problem-solving." In other words, your boss is cool with your leaving a little early one day a week to pick up your kid from school, or happy to offer a learning experience that helps you close a crucial deal.

Gay executives note that the reflection and candidness required for coming out mean that by the time they get to the workplace, gay men are often secure in their identity and don't feel the need to abuse people in order to boost their ego. "It makes you really honest with yourself and everyone around you," says Chris McCarthy, a vice president at MTV Networks who came out 10 years ago. He believes the experience has allowed him to tap into the individual needs of his seven team members, including two discontented employees whom he recently helped find new positions within the company. "I think it's really important that you give people the opportunity to have self-respect, even if that means helping them leave a job in the way they want to," he explains.

And this kind of empathetic management style is both gay and straight benefiting employees. When Brian Wachur, 23, wasn't getting the promotion he'd been waiting for at his D.C. PR firm, he approached his gay manager, Jason Smith. "I was nervous about what he was going to say, but he was able to tell me where I could improve in a really constructive way," he says. "It was a big contrast to other managers I had had in the past." Wachur soon got the new title, and he now considers Smith his professional mentor. "It's definitely surprising to me that I have a 38-year-old gay male in my life who is such a huge influence."

Matthew Klein says that working for a gay boss has taught him that emotionally honest doesn't equate to weak in the workplace. "Your typical hetero male is programmed as a boy that there are two emotions: angry and tired," he says. "These are gross limitations that restrict our ability to be great managers."

But being gay doesn't give you a monopoly on management skills. "The only managers that succeed are ones that have energy and are outgoing and interested," says Richard Laermer, the gay CEO of a New York-based PR firm and co-author of Punk Marketing: Get Off Your Ass and Join the Revolution. "If that's a gay thing, then mazel tov, but I know the same number of straight managers who are emotional and caring." And one gay vice president at a financial firm says his leadership traits come from his life history, not from anything related to his sexual orientation. "I was in the military, in a fraternity, and played a varsity sport," he says. "I feel like I spend my life explaining that what I'm saying or doing has nothing to do with the fact that I'm gay."

That said, if your new boss happens to be gay, chances are you'll be happier and more fulfilled in your job. And even if you're not, the consolation is that there's still one area in which he's likely to excel. Says Smith, "We throw the fiercest holiday parties."
I've been a manager, as well as have had managers. I feel that I am a good listener and a good judge of character. I think gay men do have certain characteristics that make them better bosses. But there are always the exception. In-the-closet types can be the bosses from hell. I had one of them, and he was a real prick. Also I hear that multi-billionaire businessman David Geffen can be a hard person to work for. But the head of Rolling Stone, Jann Wenner, is a great guy to work for, and a nurturing publisher.

Something related, one of the earliest gay character actors on TV has died. John Inman, who played Mr. Humphries on the classic Brit TV sitcom, "Are You Being Served?" died yesterday.
More from the
Trailblazing gay actor John Inman dies

Actor John Inman, popular for his memorably camp role as Mr. Humphries in the '70s sitcom Are You Being Served?, died Thursday in London. He was 71.

Inman died in St Mary's Hospital in Paddington after suffering a hepatitis A infection.

His character's catchphrase, "I'm free," and suggestive sexual humor made Inman a star, and he starred in more than 40 pantos—traditional Yuletide family entertainments that include double entendres and male and female drag as well as lots of jokes for the kiddies.

Named BBC personality of the year and "Funniest Man on Television" by TV Times in 1976, Inman remained popular long after the show ended in 1985. He went on to star in an Australian version of the show in the early 1980s and also appeared on BBC's 2004 series Revolver.

Are You Being Served?, about a stuffy department store staffed by lovable eccentrics, reached the United States in the late 1980s, where it became a cult hit.

When publicly questioned about his sexuality, Inman remained coy for many years, but admitted that he could be bisexual.

However, in late 2005, Inman made his sexual orientation public when he entered into a civil partnership with his partner of 33 years, Ron Lynch. Lynch is said to be "devastated" by Inman's death.

Although Mr. Humphries was widely criticized as a gay stereotype, actress Rula Lenska, who worked with Inman, defended the gay undertones of the character.

"It was suggestive, but never in-your-face or aggressive. It had an innocent quality that you rarely find today," she told the BBC.

Inman "was a joy to work with, and even after an exhausting day in pantomime he would have time for the fans who crowded round the stage door," Lenska said. MY NOTE: GOSH, RULA LENSKA is still around?

Wendy Richard, who played shop assistant Miss Brahms in the series, told BBC Radio 4's Today program: "John was one of the wittiest and most inventive actors I've ever worked with. He was a brilliant, brilliant pantomime dame, and he was a very good all-round actor, really. He was a true professional."

Inman's manager, Phil Dale, said, "John was known and loved throughout the world. He was one of the best and finest pantomime dames working to capacity audiences throughout Britain. John was known for his comedy plays and farces, which were enjoyed from London's West End throughout the country and as far as Australia, Canada, and the USA."

George Broadhead, secretary of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association, told that at the time of the show, "Inman became a bit of a bĂȘte noire for the gay community for promoting stereotypes of gay men as effeminate."

However, he said, "The gay community has grown up since then and has come to appreciate its trailblazers. Inman fits into the same mold as Larry Grayson and Frankie Howard. We can actually see reruns of Are You Being Served? and appreciate their zaniness now rather than cringing at stereotypes." (Hassan Mirza,
I always enjoyed his character for comic relief, especially his interaction on the set in scenes with the character Mrs. Slocum and his eye movements when she mentioned her "pussy". I made sure I never acted like him. He will be missed.


Ed said...

I am not surprised that gays make the best bosses. I know I would do everything I was asked to do and more if a gay man told me to do it. Maybe that's just me feeling horny. LOL.

Andrew said...

If anyone wants an idea of the style of Are You Being Served, here is a clip.

Lemuel said...

Well, from the study I can only conclude that all my bosses have been straight as an arrow. ;)

Leonard said...

I've only had one gay boss, well actually two, but one was a lesbian so that don't count 'cause she hated me. My gay male boss, well he was cool and he started me out like $3k over everyone else in that entry level position. Hmmm...well...I do have to say AT THAT TIME...their salary ranges were being evaluated! He was cool though, didn't hit on me, or even act all gay...but he was sympathetic and very encouraging.

JB said...

"I'm free!"

Sorry, couldn't resist.

I've not had any gay bosses...

Spider said...

I agree that we do make better managers - I feel that we have more compassion, we understand more what the average working person is going through - the stress involved in the job and the life and the family.

I think as a collective whole we are more intelligent, more insightful and certainly more understanding...

Shaney said...

I think it all boils down to personality & character...A gay man can be just as intimidating as anyone else, particularly if they are one of the extreme career driven types & care first & foremost for their company and less for the hapiness of the employee's who happen to be the driven force behind the success...No matter the sexuality, these days I dont thinkenough recognition is given for "the workers"...hugs xoxx