This is a work in progress. An attempt to further the discussion on managing a diverse workforce. I am seeking comments and suggestions and I am not afraid of a little controversy.
They thought gender was no longer an issue but the statistics on women in top jobs proved that wrong. They assumed race had been over taken by faith in the be careful what you say category but were still wary. They regarded disability as an occasional recruitment issue despite the prevalence of mental health problems in the population. It was sexuality that was making them feel uncomfortable. They kept coming across references to gay, lesbian, bi sexual and transsexuals. “They” were managers. They had heard the one about the man who wanted to be a woman and HR’s advice that he/she should use the unisex disabled toilets. Most viewed this as an interesting HR issues not an everyday management issues. No the hot issue was managing gay men.
Ever since the chief executive had come out as gay the organisation had become decidedly gay friendly. It was most noticeable at head office where there was a dramatic increase in the number of young gay men employed. The organisation had probably always had the usual cross section of people within its staff group the difference was people now felt empowered and able to discuss even flaunt their sexuality. Or at least the men did. But whereas people were clear on the rules for behaviour at work for heterosexuals were they different for homosexuals?
The former chief executive had a bit of a reputation for surrounding himself with young women so was this chief executives behaviour any more unacceptable? However the former chief executive wasn’t in the habit of inviting his junior staff out to lunch or for after work drinks. It was the cliquey nature of this that drew the comments; these same young men seemed to be on a lot of working groups chaired by the chief ex. Clearly some managers felt that some of their staff had more access to the chief ex than they did. And some staff made the most of this dropping into the conversation at every opportunity what the chief ex had said at lunch yesterday or on Friday when a group of them when for a drink after work. The implication was clear, they had a powerful friend.
This was perceived as a potential problem should there be issues of time keeping, attendance or quality of work. Mangers also claimed to feel under pressure to approved applications to attend conferences and workshops which they felt were more about sexuality than of direct relevance to the business.
It was the senior women managers who felt most excluded. They referred to the “gay mafia” and complained they were often out the loop since conversation had obviously taken place outside of the senior management team meetings.
It all came to an abrupt end with the chief ex sudden departure and the instillation by the board of an acting chief ex who was a woman.
Managers are not always comfortable with the diverse nature of the modern workforce. In the past people management issue tended to be about tackling homophobic bulling, inappropriate “jokes” and supporting staff who felt they were being excluded or talked about because of their sexuality. Now we have managers who don’t know whether they are feeling uncomfortable because of a person’s sexuality or because the behaviour is inappropriate.