Dear Maria, this is my first time writing something like this, but I am writing today because my colleague announced that he was pansexual while out for after work drinks. Now the team can’t stop snickering about it when we’re around the office; they keep asking what it means and if he’s just gay. As another straight man, what should I do to help these guys understand? I feel bad for him, but I also feel he exposed too much for coworkers.
-Not So Happy Hour
Hi there, I hope you’re well my friend! I’ll say this, I am proud that as a heterosexual identifying male you feel inclined to speak up on this issue. This is not always so common so kudos to you for taking a stance. I’m laughing because I want to tell you to just ask them to do their damn research and that it’s 2021 so stop being cavemen!!! For that alone, this article from Rolling Stone may be super useful for them.
However your situation is layered because these are coworkers and that kind of “locker room” talk shouldn’t be tolerated in the workplace. Another coworker’s sexuality shouldn’t be a discussion at all and I’m sure they know that subject is HR 101. So this seems to be a reckless and immature culture that these colleagues of yours are perpetuating – and you in no way should feel guilty about telling them that and reporting this to your boss and human resources. There’s no other way around this other than to bring to their attention how inappropriate having that dialogue at work is. It is unacceptable behavior and clearly makes you uncomfortable, as well as the coworker affected by the chatter, I’m sure.
This should be a lesson that sadly many people forget: after work chat doesn’t always remain after work especially after a few drinks—trust me, I know! I had an old colleague reveal that they had found my personal Instagram and they went around showing everyone in an attempt to embarrass me. As though I had anything to hide! The moment it was brought to my attention, I Immediately owned who I was and addressed the individual to make it clear that I found what they were doing to be immature and inappropriate. I even let that individual know to their face that I would be reporting their actions to HR. I hope your colleague does the same. That was 2015 and there weren’t as many social media policies in place as today, but the scenario still resonates.
Hopefully your coworker now knows that his colleagues aren’t mature enough to handle real life conversations and that he chooses to have a little more discretion with who he associates with after work. Not because he should be embarrassed, but because clearly there is a poor understanding at your company around respecting someone’s personal life. I also want to challenge you to remove the narrative that maybe he shared too much, because he obviously felt comfortable enough to share that and unfortunately your colleagues are using it as a moment to demean him. Him sharing that he identidifes as pansexual is no different than someone expressing that they have a wife or husband. It shouldn’t be taken as a big reveal. If you haven’t already I think it would be kind of you to let him know what’s going on and that you plan to report it if he doesn’t do so himself. I hope it all stops and everyone can come to a true resolve over such a childish situation after this. And lastly, if your colleague is single tell him so am I! Just kidding 🙂