David Hockney Revealed

Many artists can school the world on how to love, and how to work. Just recently at the Brooklyn Museum we came upon an eye-opening example of how to bring your whole self to work by English painter David Hockney.

In the exhibit HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, we saw Hockney’s painting Adhesiveness, 1960, and learned that he actively integrated his sexual identity into his work.

David C. Ward, co-curator of “Hide/Seek” and historian at the National Portrait Gallery, spoke in a video about how Hockney has engaged his whole self in his work, and the corresponding description says it best:

Even though homosexuality was illegal in England until 1967, David Hockney presented his homosexuality directly, as integral to his art. While his paintings from the early 1960s did use coded references-to lovers and other gay references-the overriding avowal of male desire made these paintings a commentary on England’s proscriptions. And Hockney openly stated his intent to propagandize “for something that hadn’t been propagandized: homosexuality. I felt it should be done.”

Bravo Mr. Hockney! We’ve always loved your paintings, especially those depicting fantasy and reality in Southern California.

Learning that Hockney brings his whole self to work means there’s now even more about him to love.

What parts of you are integral to your work?

Image of BMW 850 CSi, 1995 detail via

Challenges to Engaging Your Whole Self at Work

A friend of ours, “Karisma,” last month attended a two-day course on lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) issues in the workplace, and left with her head spinning. What happened may surprise you.

She’s a counselor in a New York City high school, and two colleagues attended the learning program with her. We connected when she was somewhat distressed shortly after the seminar; the primary issue, in her words, was:

I tried to ‘come out’ at work during a two day training and it was a disaster for me. Internally I felt so upset I cried all the way to the ferry, obviously not a good look. I’m better now than I was, but I am still thinking about Monday and my re-entry to work.

Like many people, Karisma has preferred to separate aspects of her work life from her personal life, so the struggle to reveal her self to her coworkers is real. Still, by thinking hard about her actions and feelings in the context of her job, she’s well equipped to reap the rewards of revealing and engaging her whole self at work. Let’s look at how the events unfolded.

Karisma relates how the opening go-around began: Read more

Not Just for 7 Million* Gay People

Hooray for more research! Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Karen Sumberg of the Center for Work-Life Policy have published an article in the Harvard Business Review outlining their study on coming out at work.

They’ve found that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees who reveal their sexual identity are generally more successful. From the article:

Our research suggests that many are hiding needlessly and that “out” workers may stand a better chance than closeted workers of being promoted (although there are still relatively few openly gay senior executives). This appears to be the case largely because closeted workers suffer anxiety about how colleagues and managers might judge them and expend enormous effort concealing their orientation, which leaves them less energy for actual work. Further, LGBT workers who feel forced to lie about their identity and relationships typically don’t engage in collegial banter about such things as weekend activities—banter that forges important workplace bonds.

What good news! That we already knew.

Now let’s do an exercise. For a moment, let’s not only consider the LGBT population; let’s think about everybody at work. Nearly everyone at work struggles in some way to be fully open about who they are. So we’re going to substitute “humanity” for “orientation” in the paragraph above, and omit the terms “gay” and “LGBT.”

So once more, this time thinking about all people:

Our research suggests that many are hiding needlessly and that “out” workers may stand a better chance than closeted workers of being promoted (although there are still relatively few openly gay senior executives). This appears to be the case largely because closeted workers suffer anxiety about how colleagues and managers might judge them and expend enormous effort concealing their orientation humanity, which leaves them less energy for actual work. Further, LGBT workers who feel forced to lie about their identity and relationships typically don’t engage in collegial banter about such things as weekend activities—banter that forges important workplace bonds.

Mostly works, right? Regardless of what specifically you may be striving to conceal about your self, it’s increasingly evident that hiding is detrimental to your career. Seven (7) million* gay people can’t be the only ones to benefit from coming out at work. Clearly there’s opportunity for everybody!

If you’re wondering what parts of your self can be liberated on the job, look no further.

We love how this research supports the broad viability of bringing your whole self to work.

So what are you waiting for? What would you love to reveal about your self at work, that you haven’t already?

* Estimated number of LGBT employees in the U.S. private sector

Photo via

Come Out and (Press) Play

June is LGBT–lesbian, gay, bi and trans–Pride month, when queer folks and allies come together in the name of pride and the pursuit of equality, inside and outside of the workplace.

Coinciding with the occasion, In the Life Media has produced a series of videos called “LGBT Executives Speak Out” in which corporate and non-profit leaders reveal their advocacy work. Press the play button to view the segment above, which features Bobby Wilkinson of State Farm Insurance.

The series is an interactive supplement to “A Message of Hope” viewable in its entirety here.

How do you like the videos?

Image via

How Homophobia Can Help Your Career

Homophobia, or the irrational discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, is a horrible and destructive force. Along with racism, sexism and other prejudices, it’s the source of so many ills in the world, and thus, the workplace.

In America, organizations exist to quell the effects of the devastating and pervasive dynamic, and many European nations–depicted in purple to the right–have laws against related hate crimes and hate speech. While it’s difficult to extinguish this ever-powerful group dynamic, that’s OK; increasing evidence is pointing to the upside of a homophobic environment.

You read that right.

Adam Kelley and Frank Golom, a teacher and organizational development consultant, respectively, have been affected by homophobia at work, ultimately for the better. They were recently profiled in TC Today, the magazine of Teachers College (TC), Columbia University.

At the Brooklyn High School for Leadership and Community Service, Adam Kelley’s teaching is informed by a previous, harrowing work experience. Writes Emily Rosenbaum:

As a Peace Corps volunteer teaching kindergartners in a village in Uganda, he was outed by a woman who was attempting to blackmail him. The punishment for male homosexuality under Ugandan tribal law is severe, and Kelley had to flee, returning to the States.

Read more

Apple Inc. to Employees: “Bring It” [video]

Revealing your internal world on the job is usually a product of your own efforts. Your environment can play a part in your opening up, too, and some organizations are better at this than others.

Enter Apple Inc.’s (AAPL) contribution to the “It Gets Better” Project, started by Dan Savage to help prevent the suicide of teenagers and young adults who feel threatened because of their sexual identity.

Employees of Apple have created a truly heartfelt video, one that dares to depict the pain–and tears–of coming out to oneself and to others. In doing so, they’ve produced a powerful recruiting tool, as elements of Apple’s culture are fully on display.

What company values are inherent in the 6-minute segment?

  • Community service. Apple dedicated financial, personnel, and technological resources to offer their take on a societal problem.
  • Verbal ability. Everybody is so well-spoken, to be a member of the organization is to have top-notch oral communication skills.
  • Integration of multiple identities. Within the lesbian, gay, bi and transgender population at Apple, we see diversity in visible attributes such as race, age, gender and ability. It sounds like every individual’s voice is heard, too.

In this manner, the executive leadership encourages employees to “bring it.” Bring your invisible identities, bring your life stories, bring the intensity of your feelings–so profound!–and bring the corresponding tears, too. The prompt to bring all of your strengths and vulnerabilities must bring about a certain freedom in employees. Now when was the last time you felt free at work?

Indeed the open culture pays off. Apple maintains legions of consumers who breathlessly await the launch of the next uber-cool product, the iPad2 has been an instant best-seller, and the stock currently hovers around $330 a share.

UPDATE 5/2/11: Even though in 2010 Apple took over Microsoft as the world’s most valuable technology company, in the first quarter of 2011 it surpassed Microsoft in net income, too. Not surprising from a company that encourages employees to leverage their full humanity on the job.

What do you think of the video?

Photo via allaboutapple.com

How to Display Your Sexuality at Work

We often hear statements like “what you do in your bedroom should stay out of the boardroom” — patent wishes to disregard how sexuality influences our work. Sex does play into our work, often subtly. We have pictures to prove it.

Raynard Kington was recently elected as Grinnell College’s 13th president, and soon thereafter the University of Southern California (USC) celebrated the inauguration of Max Nikias, its 11th president. The corresponding photos, or lack thereof, tell a poignant story about displays of sexuality in the workplace.

Dr. Kington’s history of professional accomplishments is substantial; the former acting director of the National Institutes of Health was responsible for spending $10.4 billion as part of President Obama’s economic stimulus package, and his educational background is a triple-threat–MD, PhD and MBA–all from the most prestigious universities. He has a partner and two children, and they live together in the president’s home at the college.

As a husband and parent, he certainly conforms to the traditional image of the college president as family man.  He’s also different from the norm because he’s gay.

Now here’s the kicker: the photograph of Dr. Kington above is posted on his blog and originates from the NIH. The image of Kington with his family on the left is embedded from an unfamiliar source. Because as far as we can tell, Grinnell College has no official portrait of President Kington with his family.

Why not?

To seek an answer, let’s look at Max Nikias, USC’s president, who has a whole page devoted to glossy images of him and his family (below right). We strongly believe that presenting a polished picture of the Grinell “first family” is not a matter of limited resources, because Grinnell’s endowment stood at $1.26 billion in January 2011.

Rather, it looks like an issue of displaying sexuality at work. As a straight-identified man, Dr. Nikias openly puts his heterosexuality on display simply by standing next to his wife. Whenever you’re with your spouse or significant other, it’s hard to hide that you’re a sexual being. And it’s common for prominent leaders to showcase their spouses and offspring in their work life. Politicians and college presidents come to mind, for example.

On an unconscious level, this is a question of coming out for Grinnell’s president, even though he’s already out at work. He even has it somewhat easier than others, with a spouse and children. On one hand, he comes out any time he references his partner, and on the other, should someone see him with his child and refer to his “wife,” he’s likely compelled to correct them with an automatic “my husband.” Rarely would he need to speak the words, “I’m gay.” Still, being out at work is a multi-faceted experience, and in this case we’re examining the visual publicity aspect.

Thus, we encourage Dr. Kington to present–online and off-line–a more formal image of his family, which would be helpful for Grinnell College, and for society at large.

We have a dream that one day we’ll all value the influence of our sexuality on who we are and on the work we do, so that someone like Zach Wahls will know better when speaking in favor of marriage equalityand against House Joint Resolution 6 in the Iowa House of Representatives. Raised by his biological mother and her same-sex partner, he concludes his remarks with, “the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero effect on the content of my character,” and the audience erupts in applause

In the workplace, and in the cases of Raynard Kington’s sons and Max Nikias’ daughters, this rings false.

So what’s a good way to display your sexuality at work?

With pride. Pride in your family, and pride in your self.