Don’t Fish Off The Company Pier…

timtolan Engagement and Satisfaction, Tim Tolan

OK – this is not the normal subject content I usually write about – but I have some questions for you HR professionals. Many of us have already seen this movie time and time again. I guess by some standards, dating co-workers is much more common that it used to be. Some employers still have issues and policies with co-workers dating one another. While I personally don't think that matters as much – an executive leader dating someone (OK having an affair) in the same division where both somehow benefit professionally and financially presents a whole host of issues and pitfalls. Can I say that? OK - I did. I guess some employers have the dating couple sign a dating document? What? OK – but that's for those who are openly dating and everyone knows about it. My example is a bit different…

I have experienced the latter scenario a couple of times in my career and both had bad outcomes - for theThe-office-u-s company and for two employees that were having the fling. In one case, the SVP of operations was seeing (whatever) one of the top salespeople and that created absolute chaos inside the company. Every sale this (attractive) woman made somehow got top priority from the installation and ops team (run by her lover) while others stood by in disbelief. This spiraled into a very bad situation over time – but it took a while. The (entire) sales team started to revolt regarding the consistent preferential treatment this sales person constantly received, while many of us that worked with the ops executive continually challenged him with one- on-one interventions to try to fix the problem. 

Here's the problem. Everyone knew about it, everyone talked about it – but nobody did anything to address the problem. When a top executive makes a (bad) decision to fish off the company pier, the results can really be painful for the entire company. Even the HR lead decided to stand down because of this person's position in the company. We had (a slight) mutiny from the sales team, and everything really changed about this division of the company based on what was going on after hours. Even after the affair ended, the memory lingered on forever.

I'm certainly not an HR professional but have a couple of questions for those that do this for a living. Knowing the scenario I just described - how do you deal with a situation like this full of innuendos and speculation regarding a top company executive who is rumored to be having an affair with an employee in the same company? No facts – just pure rumors and hearsay. Do you confront the executive without having facts? Do you have a conversation with them about the buzz that HR is hearing from other employees? Or, do you sit back and gather more information you can verify before approaching the executive? I'm just curious and want to hear from you. 

I can't wait…