Details magazine recently shook up the corporate hiring world when it ran an article entitled “Why Gay Men Make the Best Bosses.” It’s an interesting read.
Over two pages, author Danielle Sacks – a straight woman – uses several anecdotes and some statistics from a new book on gay executives to argue that gay bosses are superior to straight bosses in nearly every way.
However, while Sacks’s claim is compelling, and definitely worth all the buzz it’s receiving, is it really true? Are gay managers really the universal hiring solution every company has been looking for? Let’s break it down and see.
Sacks’s argument is based on a study by USC professor Kirk Snyder which found that gay male bosses produce higher levels of employee engagement, satisfaction and morale than their straight counterparts. This difference is large, too: a 35 percent – 60 percent increase on these key metrics is nothing to sneeze at. The author interprets these findings as evidence that gay bosses are more understanding, intuitive and adaptable than straight bosses.
As Sacks explains,
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.”
If you work in corporate hiring, this is potentially a big deal. Employee engagement profoundly affects office productivity.
If gay managers cultivate it better than anyone else, then why not hire them exclusively? It seems like a sure thing. As the media has shown, it isn’t exactly easy to be gay in America – and that’s doubly true for gay executives. So why not lend a helping hand and fill your company with fabulous managers?
Well, hold your horses there, partner.
The big hole in Danielle Sacks’s argument is that she acknowledges no holes in her argument. Blanket statements and stereotypes aren’t the sharpest tools in the cognitive toolbox, but Sacks appears to wield them when she assumes that all gay men are nicer because they’re so self-reflective and that this inherent niceness makes gay men the perfect hiring solution. “If your new boss happens to be gay,” she says, “chances are you’ll be happier and more fulfilled in your job.”
A few gay men respectfully disagree with her.
As Good Life contributor Kaleb Blake puts it, “Gay men in fact do a lot of self-examination, monitoring, and reflection – especially as they’re coming out – but these aren’t traits specific to us. […] Assuming that gay men are more compassionate isn’t a terribly far-fetched stereotype, but it still is one.” In other words, it’s impossible to know for sure whether or not a gay manager will be more successful than a straight employee at motivating and guiding your workforce.
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Dan Avery elaborates in a post on Queerty, stating, “While I think my various employers’ sexuality might’ve played some part in their overall personality, no two have been the same.” He goes on to cite several examples of terrible gay bosses he’s had over the years before concluding that, “In reality, it’s a crapshoot: Gay men can make the best bosses, but they can also make some of the worst.”
In the end, the jury is still out on whether or not gay men really do make better bosses than straight men. The evidence suggesting that this is true is largely anecdotal and based on sweeping generalizations, and that’s to be expected.
Being gay may indeed make a person more likely to posses a certain set of positive managerial traits, but not so much that you should dedicate your entire corporate hiring program to finding the most fabulous managers on the market.
If you want to hire the best manager, let a candidate’s experience and personality do the talking. There’s no such thing as a “sure bet” in the corporate hiring world, but you can boost your chances by selecting an employee with a great attitude and a proven record of success.
And if that person just so happens to be gay, maybe you’ll have the chance to put Sacks’s thesis to the test. It won’t be scientific, and it’ll be based on a single data point. But it’d be hard to resist after reading the article.
This article originally appeared on The Resumator Blog.