Sorry Details, Gay Men Don’t Make The Best Bosses

Details magazine got the queer blogosphere abuzz this month with a feature on “Why Gay Men Make the Best Bosses.” In my years as a professional scalawag for both queer and straight media outlets, I’ve had quite a few gay bosses, so I was interested to see where this story was going.

Danielle Sacks, the straight woman who wrote the piece, makes the case that homos are great managers with anecdotes from wage slaves who got great feedback and encouragement from their bender bosses. She also plugs The G Quotient: Why Gay Executives Are Excelling as Leaders . . . and What Every Manager Needs to Know by USC professor Kirk Snyder. It’s sort of a Seven Habits of Highly Successful Homos.

“Gay people are constantly having to dodge and weave and assess how and where they’re going as they grow up,” says Snyder. “And that manifests itself as three huge skills: adaptability, intuitive communications, and creative problem-solving.”

In other words, your boss is cool with your leaving a little early one day a week to pick up your kid from school, or happy to offer a learning experience that helps you close a crucial deal.

Nope, not gonna buy this one.

Details throws these gay-interest nuggets in every month to stealthily acknowledge its queer readership while still maintaining it’s the straight-bro’s Bible. And that’s fine. But suggesting that a queer boss would be more empathetic and supportive than a straight one is ridiculous. Doesn’t Sacks watch Drag Race—or the first season of Survivor? Gay men will throw each other under the bus as soon as possible. (I’m kidding… a little.)

Even if you could make such gross generality about gay men (and I find Sacks’ claim pretty gross), being a nurturer is hardly the chief requirement of an executive. The same stereotype that says gay men are creative and reassuring says they don’t have ambition or a backbone. You can’t have it both ways.

While I think my various employers’ sexuality might’ve played some part in their overall personality, no two have been the same: I’ve had gay bosses that were total hard-asses—guys who didn’t respect their staff and took credit for other people’s work. I also had a gay boss who had no balls—he was so concerned with making sure everyone liked him (perhaps a holdover from being bullied as a kid) that he couldn’t call anyone on their shit.

Even Sacks seems to doubt her claim. Or at least some of the people she interviewed did, anyway:

“The only managers that succeed are ones that have energy and are outgoing and interested,” says Richard Laermer, the gay CEO of a New York–based PR firm and co-author of Punk Marketing: Get Off Your Ass and Join the Revolution. “If that’s a gay thing, then mazel tov, but I know the same number of straight managers who are emotional and caring.”

And one gay vice president at a financial firm says his leadership traits come from his life history, not from anything related to his sexual orientation. “I was in the military, in a fraternity, and played a varsity sport,” he says. “I feel like I spend my life explaining that what I’m saying or doing has nothing to do with the fact that I’m gay.”

The bottom line is management epiphanies are like fad diets—every few months someone comes along an announces that following the Kabbalah or incorporating lessons from Fat Albert will take your business to the top.

In reality, it’s a crapshoot: Gay men can make the best bosses, but they can also make some of the worst. All I know is if I were Sacks’ boss, I’d rake her over the coals for her conclusion:

If your new boss happens to be gay, chances are you’ll be happier and more fulfilled in your job. And even if you’re not, the consolation is that there’s still one area in which he’s likely to excel. Says Smith, “We throw the fiercest holiday parties.”

Well sure, if that’s the yardstick your measuring by.


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  • Chuck

    Gotta agree with Queerty’s take. Sad as it is, I have found straight bosses to be better. That’s straight men and women. My experience with gay bosses has been pretty bad, and yes I’m talking about you Michael, Whit, and Matt.

  • GPA

    My experience:

    Women- Never let it go. They hold a grudge…a long time.

    Gay men – They want everyone to know that THEY are the boss.

    Straight men — Do the job, no drama wanted, and screwups do happen by all, and everyone takes credit, or blame, and you continue. Much less stress.

    Sorry to generalize, but it’s 30 years of what I saw.

  • Zoltan

    I’m a gay boss, and I’m extremely fair, flexible, but firm. This article is a ridiculous generalization.

  • Stupid

    My worst boss ever was a gay man — a petty tyrant and a bully who was openly misogynistic at work and who was utterly incompetent. I quit because of him, and he was eventually demoted. My second-worst boss was the gay manager of a gay restaurant in a gay neighborhood, who subjected his staff to constant sexual harassment and groping, and all sorts of public humiliation.

    My best bosses have all been straight ladies. But that’s just my experience. Thing is, there’s all sorts of different people, gay and straight, and you can’t generalize.

  • joec

    I’ve had one gay boss ever, and he was a lying, inconsiderate, needlessly hardass prick.

    The icing on the cake was after I gave him my two-week notice he hounded me for days to put it in writing. Of course once I did, he fired me right then and there. And I had to fight to get back the last week of pay I was owed.

  • LaTeesha

    Why would anyone think sexual orientation is a predictor of leadership ability? I’d have to see several good studies before I’d subscribe to the notion that sexual orientation predicts your success as a boss.

  • QJ201

    Gay men in Gay related businesses (e.g., gay bars, gay restaurants, gay shops) or gay typical businesses (e.g., hair, flowers, makeup) make the worst bosses…every damn stereotype in full living color.

  • Jonathonz

    The Details article just goes to show that writers for magazines usually don’t know what they’re talking about nor do they really care that they don’t know what they’re talking about. They have a deadline every month and have to come up with something to sell magazines. You can’t generalize about something like this. What a load of crap.

  • Timmeeeyyy!!!

    Details is filled with these sort of vacuous “revelations.” I miss the old, cool days of Details (yes, I’m talking to you, Saban).

  • Clockwork


    Keep up the good work. We need more gay individuals in management.

    All people want is a work environment with clear communication and respect; brings productivity, win-win.

  • Joshua L

    This article is is a generalization, and completely stupid. It does not matter if the boss is gay or straight, that is such a small factor in regards to their performance in management……. it is laughable. I have had amazing straight and gay bosses, and I have had horrible straight and gay bosses. It had nothing to do with their sexual orientation. Why are people so obsessed with sexual orientation, it is such a small part of your life, we do not need to have straight or gay on the mind 24/7. At my work, my fellow employees did not even know I was gay until I had worked their for 6 months, not because I was ashamed, but because I am at work, and my work is my career, not a place for me to talk about my personal life. I do hair, and most of my clientele has absolutely no idea whether I am gay or straight, it is just not something I need to talk about. When I am at work I am there to people please and make a living. My performance at work can make the difference between earning $10 dollars an hour or $30 dollars an hour. I prefer to shoot for professionalism and hit the $25-$30 an hour mark, it makes life a hell of a lot better.

  • Oh, ok

    I heard everyone in group X is alike and everyone in group Y is better. Clearly group Z is the best.

  • Geoff B

    I’ve had three gay bosses. One was a douchebag, two were great. About the same ratio with straight bosses I’ve had. Now that I’m in management I do my best to emulate the good bosses I ‘ve worked for. Gay or straight you have to strike the right balance of not being a micromanaging powertripping pain in the ass and not being a weak willed doormatt. Sexual orientation in my experience has never been a factor.

  • jason

    I think Details throws the word “gay” in front of various concepts simply to make us think that it’s an inclusive magazine.

    As for the notion that gay bosses are the best, no such thing. Some gay bosses can be good, some can be bad. It all depends on your personality, not your orientation.

  • the other Greg

    I’m curious about the picture. I knew Fred Flintstone had a gay old time, but when did he have a gay old boss?

    It looks like a gay Republican from Bain Capital has swooped into the Slate Quarry, sent Mr. Slate away with a few mil & some stock, and is about to fire poor Fred.

  • gggggb

    I don know. I’m sure that the Details article was incomprehensible, but this man doesn’t make much sense either.

  • Generalize Much?

    Could it be that gay men are as good or as bad or as mediocre as anyone else? To suggest that gay men all make good bosses, or bad bosses, is absurd.

  • twiterosG

    i have to agree only because I’ve experienced it,

    i suffered working for a gay boss who can’t seem to make up his mind about anything, was very LEWD too. and frequently delays salary because he needs to support his boytoy

    as a gay man albeit discreet, it was a big embarrassment to accompany him during dinner meetings while he gets sauced up leaving me to apologize to the guests and mop him off the floor.

    however, to generalize that ALL gays are bad bosses, it might be stretching things to far though.

    I’ve been a leader before and I’ve had few problems (or probably because I’m straight acting)

  • Chadboy

    Give me a straight male boss any day! They’ve had the luxury of being leaders in the workforce since the beginning of time and what comes with that is confidence and know how. Women and gays always have something to prove and tend to be out for themselves in the work environment. Straight male bosses don’t sweat the small stuff.

  • FunMe

    Details throws out stupid stories like this without a study or something strong to support their thesis. Talk about the true journalism being dead!


    I’ve have two gay bosses and they were both cool. Now I’m a gay boss and the only ones that seem to have a problem with me are the ones who think they can walk all over me and do what they hell the want.

  • marcelwiel

    Gay bosses can be great bosses IF they’ve dealt with all their baggage. Inevitably for many people, growing up gay in a hetero world means all sorts of shit has happened. Now to say that a gay man who’s dealt with his issues makes a better boss than any other type of person (who’s done the same) is up for debate. Depends the team, depends the industry, depends the circumstances. So on balance, Details is probably making a sexist generalisation in a bid to appeal to its gay readers.
    On the plus side however, it’s hard to imagine this debate happening in the 1990s, 1980s, 1970s, etc. In two years, I’ll be 50 and I think it’s fantastic that this sort of ‘sexist generalisation’ is being made at all. Looking back, it’s so much nicer than the opposite.
    Also, that time when gender and sexual orientation become irrelevant to how we judge one another, is just visible on the horizon. In terms of centuries of oppression, we’re almost there. Hurrah!

  • PTBoat

    Wow, the internalized homophobia is rampant in this thread. I’ve had terrific and terrible gay bosses, just as I’ve had terrific and terrible straight bosses of either sex. One thing I never got from the gay bosses was a desire to fire me because of my sexual orientation; however, that scenario diminished over the years. People are people and they carry their own bags of damage. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

    Oh, to the poor guy who is so proud of being discretely gay and “straight acting,” I hope that you learn to love yourself, and the people like you, no matter what. Straight men act in all sorts of ways: jockish, bookish, nerdy, and even effeminately. One thing they never seem to feel the need to do is to announce that they are discrete about being straight or that they are “gay acting.” One thing is not superior to the other; they just are.

  • Patrick

    I don’t think he was boasting that he is straight acting. I am a straight actor too, but only because I’ve been acting this way since I joined the military when I was 18. I’m now 36. It’s called surviving in a straight world. I don’t know any other way to be, really, at this stage in my life. Although I have been caught once or twice shaking my ass (unconsciously) to a random Gaga song playing over the office radio.

    As a gay man currently in a management position for the past two years, my experience has been not so good. I don’t like being a hard ass to get people to do their jobs. It’s not in my nature. Unfortunately, I’ve had to turn to the dark side of my personality to get some things done at work, and I really don’t like that. It has been nothing but unnecessary stress for me. I thought management would be easy because I’m a pretty easy guy to work with and I know how to get the job done. Man was I wrong! Think Obama before he took office, then think Obama now. That’s kinda how I’ve been feeling the past year. Burned the-F-out dealing with insane co-workers and subordinates! I think if I continue down this path, I’m gonna have a stress related heart attack before I’m 40.

    I’m about ready to demote myself back to a regular worker-bee position rather than management. I’ve seriously considered becoming a male flight attendant even though it would probably be a serious pay cut, comparatively. I’m great at providing customer service, and I think that would make me happy making other people happy. Plus I love to travel. Any flight attendants out there have any advice for me? I think I’m ready to ditch this straight acting gig and start being ME.

  • Brian Miller

    “The same stereotype that says gay men are creative and reassuring says they don’t have ambition or a backbone.”

    Seems to me that you’re stereotyping yourself. Creativity, reassuring characteristics, ambition and backbone are all important parts of leadership, and aren’t mutually or partially exclusive.

    The autocrat without creativity who prides himself on his “inflexible backbone” will fail just as surely as the reassuring guy without any vision or ambition.

    As for RuPaul’s Drag Race, you’re comparing a carefully-produced, contrived Hollywood production to real life? Seriously?

  • PTBoat

    @Patrick: Patrick, I think it’s great that you want to stop acting like something you are not, but I doubt you’d need to leave your career to do so. It’s a perceived idea of a straight man’s world. Lots of straight men are not afraid to do just that and certainly don’t feel guilty or a need to curb that behavior. Sure, you might not be part of the he-man, blue collar, vulgarity society, but you can get along just fine in most professional situations, aside from very redneck areas, without the pretense. I’ve never pretended to be something other than I am and, sure it was difficult to work with people who would have been happier to take me as a caricature of their idea of a gay man, rather than the self respecting guy that I am, but those days are fading away and most people don’t want anything more from me than to be a good worker and citizen.

    I’m in management. I can be a hard ass when needed, but I’ve also been described as a great boss to have and have had many past employees befriend me after our work was over. That has nothing to do with my sexual orientation any more than is has for gaining respect for me as a human being, as I am.

  • Bipolar Bear

    Workplace bullies sit on all points of the sexuality spectrum. We can delve into the psychology if we like: straight men that do it because they’re homophobic, gay men who do it because they’re compensating for not wanting to appear weak, but in the end all that matters is the effect that it has on their employees, and that you feel empowered to do something about it:


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