I know a gay man. He is a very senior executive. Heads up a publicly listed company. He is a very competent man. One of the smartest and most driven people you will ever meet. But part of him can’t come to work.
This man cannot tell others at work about his sexuality. He feels that he will be judged negatively and his career options will be limited. Even in this day and age.
Well, it’s not just his sexuality he can’t share is it? It’s his full identity that can’t show up to meetings, conferences, events and other everyday interactions - who he is, what he enjoys, and who he loves are all off-the-table as topics of conversation.
He chooses instead to focus on work related topics and rarely talks about his weekend, or his holidays, his interests, his family, or his partner. He just can’t.
As a result, the people that work closest to him don’t really know who he is. Sure, they know how competent, smart, and experienced he is. But they don't really know him.
Because his own personal life is out-of-bounds as a conversation topic, he never asks about others personal lives. There’s no “how was your weekend?” or “what have you got planned for the holidays?” As a result people assume that he has no interest in them outside of their work, or their assigned role.
I feel for this man. I wonder how it feels like to be unable to bring your whole self to work. I wonder what it must do to his soul, to his spirit.
I also wonder what it does to his relationships. If he is unable to show trust in others by sharing who he really is, can they fully trust him? Knowing so little about him, asking why so much about him is being withheld.
Many people that work with him acknowledge his very high levels of competence but lament his lack of warmth. Studies by Cuddy, Fiske and Glick suggest that as a result others may envy him and passively undermine his efforts. His behavior is certainly not going to enlist the active support of others.
This is somewhat problematic for someone hoping to mobilise thousands of employees around his vision and strategy. I wonder if he realizes this?
I can’t imagine for a moment this is an easy life. To leave for work each day, closing the front door on an important part of yourself, knowing that part of you can’t come with you.
Wouldn't it be nice to be able take the most important person in your life to work with you - to turn up fully and completely. Authentically.