David unintentionally responds insensitively to his colleague H’s coming out as gay and seeks advice on how to make things right and create a more inclusive and supportive workplace. Here is what he had to say:
David had always been a bit socially awkward. He didn’t always understand social norms and had unintentionally been rude in the past. So when his colleague H, who he technically was the boss of, came into his office and said “I am gay,” David didn’t know how to respond.
A Coming Out Story
David had an open-door policy to encourage team members to come forward and share their ideas, so H’s visit wasn’t unusual. However, when H told him he was gay, David thought he was going to say something else, so he waited for him to continue.
He Just Stared
After a moment, David made a sound of assent to make it clear he heard him, but H still didn’t say anything. Since H was staring at him, David assumed he was trying to convey something he wasn’t understanding.
David’s first response was to ask if H had any insights into marketing to that demographic since they worked in a marketing firm. H said he didn’t. David then asked if H was getting married and needed time off, which he later found out was an jerk-ish response. H said he wasn’t married. Finally, David said that if H had nothing else to discuss, he should leave as he had a meeting starting in a few minutes and needed the office. H left.
Shortly afterward, a mutual friend scolded David and said he was a real jerk for the way he responded to H. David was taken aback and didn’t understand what he had done wrong.
David turned to an impartial forum for advice and asked if he was in the wrong. He wanted to know what he had done wrong, what he should have said, and how he could fix it.
The forum explained that David’s first response was to ask H if he had any insights into marketing to that demographic was inappropriate. H was coming out to him, and David should have acknowledged that and shown empathy and support. David’s second response, asking if H was getting married and needed time off, was also inappropriate and showed a lack of understanding and empathy.
A Kind Suggestion
The forum suggested that David should have responded by saying something like, “Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me that. I appreciate it, and I’m here to support you in any way I can.” David should have then asked H if he wanted to talk about it further and let him know that he could come to him at any time if he needed someone to talk to.
He Had Made a Mistake
David realized that he had made a mistake and that he needed to be more mindful of his responses in the future. He felt bad that he had unintentionally hurt H’s feelings and wanted to make things right.
The Internet Responded
This person wrote, “Isn’t this sort of the long term goal for when someone comes out? For it not to be a thing and just business as usual?”
More Internet Comments
Another commenter posted this opinion, “Coming out sure. But… Walking into your boss’s office and just… Announcing it? That’s just so strange to me. Honestly OP’s reaction is… Hilariously accepting. Granted, they need to follow up with the employee and figure out if there was an incident at work that prompted the outburst.”
A Final Comment
This last person wrote, “Yeah I did actually laugh when I read it. I love OP’s response! Can totally imagine him just sitting there waiting for the follow-up reason for the guy actually coming into his office, and being totally baffled by the realisation that this WAS the reason. OP is a good person.”
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