Suitable Socializing: Lifestyle issues at work

by epi on November 8, 2012

Q: Is it appropriate to discuss gay lifestyle issues at work?  I’m a straight male employee at a software company, and several of my colleagues are gay or bi.  I talk with them (as I do with my straight co-workers) about nonwork-related issues like weekend activities, which sometimes involve their time at a gay bar or nightclub.  Also, what about invitations to after-work events at known gay establishments?  I don’t particularly want to spend time in a gay club, but I don’t want to offend my colleagues either, since my work situation depends greatly on their assistance and cooperation.

A: The first thought I have is: Is it appropriate to talk about straight lifestyle issues at work?  Yes, it is.  We do it every day.  It’s equally appropriate for gay colleagues to discuss gay lifestyle issues.  What’s not appropriate is to allow any conversation to veer into topics that are going to make other people uncomfortable, regardless of lifestyle.  When the conversation delves into highly personal, private, or controversial issues, it has crossed the bounds of what’s appropriate for an office environment.  Socializing with co-workers is a great way to build stronger working relationships in the office.  While it doesn’t sound like you want to spend every weekend going out to bars with your gay colleagues, doing so once in a while may well be worthwhile.  At the same time, why not turn the tables and ask them to join you at a bar of your choosing one night?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

K. November 8, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I have a question: I was laid off my job a while ago. I contacted an owner/vendor I knew well from my previous job via email to find out if he might need a person to fill a position or if he knew someone else who would. He wrote back “Why don’t we meet for lunch to discuss this and I can better find out what you are looking for.” I replied that that sounded great and he suggested a moderately priced establishment half way between the two of us.

I plan on ordering a small salad and water, but have known vendors to go a little overboard when they assume someone else is paying. My question is (since I am obviously out of a job and not in a very good financial position) I am wondering who is expected to pay for this lunch. Since I am the one benefiting from the meeting, am I responsible to pay? Since he suggested lunch, is he? Do we each pay our own ways?

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Jerry November 8, 2012 at 12:35 pm

This is a case where realpolitik controls. It is this vendor’s interpretation of the rules, not the rules themselves, that are most important. Preserving the relationship is most important.

If you can possibly afford it (i.e., only unless paying for lunch will cause you to miss your mortgage payment), you reach for the check when it comes since you need him a lot more than he needs you. Now he may offer to pick up the tab, and you can certainly let him.

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Jody November 8, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Did you have a history with this vendor where you or he consistenly paid for meals? If so, I’d assume this lunch would follow the same pattern. Otherwise I’d assume that each of you pays your own way. He invited you but you’re benefitting from his advice so you’re both coming out ahead. Still, I’d have enough cash (or a credit card) handy in case the vendor makes no move to pay his half of the bill.

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