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Is Negative Recruiting Against Companies with a High Percentage of Gay Associates In Our Future?

There's obviously lots of movement in our society toward workplace equality for LGBT individuals, and this post isn't meant to be a debate on whether you agree or disagree with that.  With so much activity pointing to the fact that equality is going to be legally defined to a greater extent soon, this post is simply about one aspect of what might be coming with that future.

One fallout you might see from the change: Negative recruiting against companies/departments/teams/managers that are open LGBT-friendly may occur at the street-level of talent acquisition. Geno kim 

Why in the hell is this on my mind?  I recently saw a piece by ESPN's new ombudsman that led me to an old article from ESPN The Magazine talking about homophobia in women's sports.  Here's a taste:

"On every top recruit's college visit, there comes the moment of the final pitch, when the head-spinning hoopla finally gives way to the business of basketball, when the high school girl steps away from the rah-rah of all the games and the ego-stroking of all the VIP intros to sit down with the head coach. During one teen's big moment, a heart-to-heart with Iowa State's Bill Fennelly, the decorated coach of 23 years sang an insistent refrain. "He kept drilling that 'this would be a family,'" says the player, who asked not to be named. "'You should come here,' he said, 'because we're family-oriented.'"

To the recruit, those seemingly comforting words cloaked a deeper meaning. Two of the four schools she was considering were purported to employ lesbians on their staffs. Her stop in Ames, in fact, was on the heels of a trip to one of those allegedly "gay programs." There, coaches avoided discussing anyone's off-court lives. Iowa State, in contrast, pushed the personal hard. "They threw it out constantly," says the player, who became a Cyclone. "'Iowa has morals, and people who live here have values, wholesome values.'" The implication, to her and to another former Cyclone who confirmed her account, was that at other schools, "there's something going on you don't know."

Now before you go bashing Iowa as a whole, you should know that the state usually shows up on the LGBT-friendly chart related to equality legislation, so it's more about the program and less about the state.  But that illustrates a long term trend of negative recruiting on LGBT issues in women's college sports:

"Why, exactly, depends on whom you ask. Gay rights activists, coaches and players speak at length about what they see as a longtime and underhanded recruiting tactic in women's sports: Pitches emphasizing a program's family environment and implicit heterosexuality are often part of a consciously negative campaign targeted at another program's perceived sexual slant. In a survey of more than 50 current and former college players, as part of The Magazine's seven-month look at women's basketball recruiting, 55 percent answered "true" when asked if sexual orientation is an underlying topic of conversation with college recruiters."

You should go read the entire article, because it's pretty alarming and insightful at the same time.  The article goes on to talk about multiple situations, even going on to identify the reason two of women's basketball biggest programs (UConn and Tennessee) don't play each other is because one (UConn) deployed negative recruiting, accusing the other (Tennessee) of being a safe haven for lesbians.  

So back to the future. One reason negative recruiting on LGBT issues in corporate America won't happen is that as society finds acceptance to a greater degree, fewer people will care, and more will accept the concept indiviually.

But thinking there won't be a backlash of negative recruiting is probably idealistic at best.  After all, those that are fervently anti-gay have never really been faced with a society that openly accepted LGBT issues.  As that acceptance grows, you can expect those who are anti-LGBT equality to activate to a greater degree, and deploy negative recruiting behind the scenes - with coversations like the one outlined above as the low-risk, high impact way to engage.

I don't see negative recruiting in play at the enterprise/company level.  I do see it coming into play on a position by position, hiring manager by hiring manager basis as LGBTacceptance grows, and with Freedom of Religion as the backdrop, I can almost guarentee you that you'll see it in LGBT discrimination case defense strategies.  You can already see it, right?  

"I told the recruit that we have a family-oriented team and obviously we want someone who fits that."

Then, the defense wonders aloud why the defendant in question doens't have the right to talk about his religous beliefs?

Negative recruiting around LGBT issues - coming to a Supreme Court decision near you in 2020.



I think the main difference between the sports recruiting program comparison with the workplace comparison is strictly this: "Are they going to hit on me in the locker room or stare at me when I change?"

Crazy as that sounds and out there as it is, bringing a young and often naïve high school girl (or guy) into an environment where there are gay people present during vulnerable moments like this is what is on the forefront of their mind and their parents (who are ultimately weighing heavily in on this decision) in the recruiting game. It was with me when I was being recruited.

The job scene, on the other hand, is strictly business. Yeah, you might become friends, but it's work. It's a job. You can do what you want, change where you want, etc. You aren't confined to road trips, classes, locker rooms, ice baths, etc. with or in the vicinity of another person. Also, you are adults. As a mature adult, even if you don't agree on a religious level, you realize that, hey, this is a human being who deserves respect. You realize that you don't have to be Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran or whatever to have values, morals, goals, or a family, quite frankly. This is called perspective and maturity.

I think that this is the key difference between high school recruiting at 18 years old and the workplace at 22+ years old.You were a child, now you are an adult.

If anyone tries to negatively recruit in the workplace, I personally don't see it as having an impact on most employment decisions. That is, unless it is a blatant Evangelistic organization like Chic-fil-A. I think that's sad, but, hey… to get respect you give respect (and that goes both ways!).

And I love Chic-fil-A.

Companies don't have to go march in the PRIDE parades waving a flag around to be mature adults. Everyone is an individual and it all comes down to respect. Especially in the workplace. We aren't kids anymore. We are working towards the same goal. Someone should be able to freely talk about the mission trip they are going on this summer, what they did that weekend (go to church), or pray before they eat a meal without getting shit from their co workers. But the same goes for LGBT individuals—they should be able to talk about getting married, having kids, or their significant others in the workplace freely, without looking over their shoulder, because how can they express that they have values, morals, religious beliefs, or are family-oriented unless society allows them? Until that happens, they will still be feared or threatening to other "family-values-based companies."

Negative recruiting? Maybe south of the Mason Dixon line, where The Bible Belt reigns supreme. Problem is… some of the best people I know are gay. And Christians. The negative recruiting campaign, if it takes place, should spell out those who are practicing the negative recruiting really are. And the potential employee can make a decision based off of that.

Plus, you never know who you are talking to these days. That person you are recruiting might have two moms, or another family member who is gay, even though they themselves are straight. It's not safe anymore to promote "family values" as a technique. You have no idea the history of that person—no matter their religious beliefs.

Good post to get discussion going. The key here is dialogue. It's important on both sides for each to see that, hey, we aren't so different after all.


If you're in high tech in silicon valley, chances are the negative recruiting would work the other way... "you know company XYZ has a crappy Domestic Partner policy. Why would you work for that bunch of a-holes?"

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