The document below is a copy of a Department of Justice brochure advising managers to be gay friendly.
Socially conservative commenters have been roasting this brochure while social liberal commenters and most of the media has ignored it.
After reading quite a few comments about the brochure, I decided to look it up and read it myself. I may be just getting blasé about these things, but this brochure didn’t make me angry the way it has some people. I don’t like it, but I’m not outraged by it. My basic feeling is that this is about what I’ve come to expect from the DOJ.
It is certainly a heavy-handed piece of literature. However most of the things it advises are simple courtesy, which, if they’d been put forward in a less intimidating and bizarre way probably wouldn’t offend anybody.
It would never occur to me to call people in my office by degrading names, whatever their affiliations or personal lifestyle. If that is an issue at the Department of Justice for any group of people, or, for that matter, for any individual, it needs to be addressed. However this brochure with is not the way to do it.
The problem with the brochure is that it doesn’t seem to be so much about good office practices so far as courtesy and civility are concerned as it is a vaguely threatening piece “advising” managers to take a particular position on a political/social issue. That is out of line. It’s way out of line, verging on flat-out illegal.
Before I go to the illegal stuff, I want to take a brief detour and talk about the crazy stuff. Advising managers to turn the Department of Justice into a therapy session for LGBT people and their various problems is not only unprofessional, it is totally out of line, and … well … crazy. That is not the purpose of the DOJ. Behavior like that would destroy the work environment and create an emotional mess which was all about the various employees and their private lives instead of the work to be done.
I’m assuming that the Department of Justice does important work. I know that it’s charged with doing important work, work so important that we need employees who are eminently sane and responsible to do it.
There is no reason I can think of why a manager would be going around inviting employees to “come out” to him or her about their sexuality, or their family life or any other personal matter. That kind of behavior is not only inappropriate and invasive, it is flat-out destructive to a professional environment in the workplace.
What employees do in the privacy of their own bedrooms should stay in the privacy of their bedrooms. The workplace is not a coffee klatch.
It is also out of line — this is where it the brochure leans toward illegality — to try to coerce employees to attend gay pride events or keep gay pride literature and gay pride badges in their offices.
It is wholly inappropriate for the DOJ to instruct managers to attend gay pride events or to encourage their subordinates to do so. This kind of behavior oversteps the bounds of the employee-employer relationship. Since these events are quasi political, it also comes perilously close to a government agency coercing its employees to advocate for political issues as a requirement of their employment.
The brochure’s advice to “assume that LGBT employees and their allies are listening to what you’re saying … and will read what you’re writing and make sure the language you use is inclusive and respectful” is downright Orwellian. No manager should write or say personally insulting things about any employee. But the way this is worded goes beyond that advice to the world of spying and threats.
A lot of commenters appear to be upset over the advice not to use the phrase “husband and wife” in invitations to office parties (the DOJ sounds like a social club rather than the United States Department of Justice all through this memo.) I agree with these commenters. If someone is offended by the use of the phrase husband and wife, then they are denying reality.
If the DOJ wants to establish a policy that the partners of homosexual employees are to be included at occasions where spouses are also included, then they should establish that policy. There’s no reason to censor the use of language to communicate that.
This heavy-handed, vaguely threatening memo sounds like a caricature of an office memo. I notice that it’s not just a memo, it’s a designed brochure, which means the government spent quite a bit of money and talent putting it together.
What the memo seems to show us is a Department of Justice that is focused on trivialities instead of justice. It sounds like they’ve got quite a party atmosphere going there and that managers are way too involved in their employees’ private lives.
I think an office should be professional and that it should treat all its employees professionally. People form friendships at work and if they want to discuss their private lives within the framework of these friendships and they can do that without it interfering with their work, that is ok.
However, instructing managers to encourage their employees to “come out” to them about private sexual matters and to make their office environments into “safe places” for this behavior is not only unprofessional, it abrogates the purpose of the DOJ. So far as I know the United States Department of Justice does not have intra-office psycho-babbling as part of its mandate.
This memo seems to be written for a Department of Justice that is being run like a gathering of the Real Housewives of the DOJ.
If our government employees spend their time “coming out” to one another and setting up parties, they’re wasting our money. If government employees come to work in drag or dressed in other inappropriate ways, they are not being professional and should be dismissed.
This has nothing to do with sexual preference. It has everything to do with maintaining a professional, courteous and public work environment.
Our society has gotten so touchy-feely, and so focused on empowering the nuts who reside in it that we’ve lost sight of the fact that workplaces are environments where people do work. If this is how they run the DOJ, I can tell you that I think we the people are probably being ripped off.