Flashback to springtime, 2009: I’m standing in a conference room in downtown Chicago, stupid from Vicodin while my boss hurls wadded up paper at my head, over and over again. That was a huge "how did I get here?" moment. I mean, I knew I arrived at O’Hare that afternoon on Delta after an early morning root canal in New York and I was participating in a team building exercise designed to turn my boss into a human (her 360 degree review was so negative it was renamed the 666 degree review).
There are plenty of bad bosses out there (and there’s no guarantee the next one won’t be worse) so I stuck it out for eight years. Everybody else was great, lots of fun, really smart, and completely supportive and nurturing of LGBT employees. It’s a shame that everybody else was not my boss. Even my bad boss (I don’t want to use her real name so I’ll just call her The Worst), The Worst, was an ardent LGBT ally. As a side note, however, The Worst was decidedly not a supporter of working women with children. “They think they deserve more time off than people without children!”
The point is, I was not proud of myself, my work or my company because everything was so tainted by The Worst. It was not enough that the organization was extremely progressive in terms of LGBT policies. I left.
That’s when I began my search for pride of work and pride of self. I drove around the USA for the better part of 2013, blogging, camping, hitting every gay bar in all 48-contiguous states. I was proud of what I was doing but I was essentially accelerating the process of becoming homeless, since no one was paying me to be a nomad with a WordPress site.
The obvious solution for finding an income-generating workplace that could fill me with pride was a car dealership. A little background: I’m a car fanatic. The dealer network is owned by a man who is both gay and Jewish, who supports many wonderful charities, so I thought his progressive ideas would trickle down to the rest of the staff.
Wrong. I heard plenty of cheap Jew jokes, within earshot of an enormous poster of a golden retriever hopping out of a Subaru Hybrid with his two mommies. I didn’t think an environmentally conscious inter-racial lesbian couple would appreciate this hate talk any more than I did. This time I didn’t wait eight years to leave.
The good news is, great work environments that will fill you with pride do exist. I’ve recently found such a place. I’m proud to work for SAGE because they’re serving the LGBT community, but mostly I’m proud to work for SAGE because everyone I have encountered has been professional, kind and supportive. Of course I was suspicious of being treated with respect at first but you do get used to it!
So where can you find a workplace to be proud of? The answer is: anywhere you are treated with dignity and as a valued human being, at all times, in all circumstances. You shouldn’t allow people to mistreat you because they also do things that are not horrible. Pride must extend beyond June--we each deserve it all year long, in all facets of our lives.
-- Jeff Stein, communications consultant, SAGEWorks
The thoughts and opinions above are those of the writer and not Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE).