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Company Relationships.... Especially In The C-Suite

Following the announcement of the resignation (forced?) of Priceline's CEO following an investigation about his relationship with someone within the company, what are your thoughts on company relationships? Details are scarce but here is the Bus Insider article that got me thinking... http://www.businessinsider.com/ceo-of-priceline-resigning-2016-4 Here is the text of Priceline's policy so we can use it as a starting point for discussion. "Priceline Group employees should not be in the position of supervising, reviewing or having any influence on the job evaluation, pay or benefits of any close relative (spouse, partner, parent, child, sibling, nephew, niece, aunt, uncle, grandparent or grandchild) or a person with whom you are having a close personal/romantic relationship." My personal opinions... 1. Barring 2 consensual adults to have a relationship within the company is wrong. 2. Moral views are shifting...so should company policies. 3. As far as this case is concerned, I am fine with the relationship (a) as long as both parties are not married (b) as long as the other party is not directly reporting to him or being evaluated by him. 4. The Board sets and guides the culture of the Company and WITH THE LIMITED FACTS at hand, If (a) and (b) are satisfied, I "think" the Board is making the wrong decision. 5. He IS the CEO and EVERYONE "reports" to him. What are your thoughts?

Answers

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

We have a similar policy. How do you handle it when two people were hired single but get together after meeting at work? We had that happen and what do you do, fire someone because they're now dating? Fire them both? It's tough and I agree with you Emerson that it doesn't seem right to tell two consenting people that they aren't allowed to date. Our discussion with them both when it happened was to keep it out of work and if it ever interfered with work we reserved the right to take action. In our case it worked out fine.

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

Christie:

I've known that to be done. Both openly and surreptitiously. Many times.

The problem isn't one for the employees involved. Employers are at risk when this kind of thing goes on. Employer's can't win in these situations. If anything goes bad, the employer will end up paying. Not just a jilted party in the relationship but often third parties who can use the opportunity to bring claims.

Actually, I was fired when I started dating my wife at the company we both then worked for. They weren't open about it but, my then boss mentioned it later.

And, I hold no grudges for what they did. I wasn't behaving as I should have been and frankly, I wanted out of that place anyway. In the end, she was more appreciated than I was so they let me go. My only resentment was the false pretenses of why they were "eliminating my position". Which they really didn't do anyway.

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

It is frustrating when the site auto changes/edits the posting to one paragraph. Moderators, can you do something to edit it back? Sorry folks.

Bryon Burbage
Title: President and CEO
Company: Hawthorne Global Aviation Services
(President and CEO, Hawthorne Global Aviation Services) |

There has to be more to this than what was reported. The guy grew the company by $2 billion and the Board wants him out because of this personal relationship? Makes no sense to me.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

I would agree that we don't have the whole story. That being said...

I can understand a company policy that "frowns" on fraternization.

Dating between a direct supervisor/subordinate or those working in the same department (assuming the company was truly big enough to have distinct departments) can be problematic for all involved.

Having been in that situation as a yute (for movie buffs, 'My Cousin Vinny'), and seeing it happen at companies for many years; those relationships are distracting. They are distracting to the participants and observers and when they end (and they usually do), they can make for some very awkward and distracting scenes in the office.

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  • Anonymous User
    Title: CFO
    Company: Local Government Agency
    (CFO, Local Government Agency) |

    Wayne is right. The effect on morale has always been negative in my experience.

    Organization first. Individuals second. That's just the way it is.

    Ernie Humphrey CTP
    Title: CEO & COO
    Company: Treasury Careers
    LinkedIn Profile
    (CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

    Well said Emerson, and I will take it a step further. Treating employees like family works, and those relationships get complicated, but the complications are worth it. Treating employees with professional respect and common courtesy get lost when the culture is that all managers must have a "business switch" they can turn on and treat employees with no emotion. Employees earn empathy, your emotions and to know that you care about them beyond the walls of the office.

    I know this will bring comments that I take my views too far (you can't be buddies with employees), but life is short, and treating people as a human being first will always rule in my book. Also, I tell my buddies "like it is", and they accept it because we have mutual respect for each other.

    Anonymous User
    Title: CFO
    Company: Local Government Agency
    (CFO, Local Government Agency) |

    Sorry Earnie. I couldn't disagree more. Treating employees like family will turn on you every time. You will become a dysfunctional family and the business will end up paying the price..

    Drama, drama, drama.

    Employee's acting out and having unrealistic expectations of what they deserve from their employer. As well as the employer having unrealistic expectations of their employees.

    BTDT. Too many times.

    Ross Anderson, CPA, MBA
    Title: Controller
    Company: TFS Capital
    (Controller, TFS Capital) |

    This is a tricky area. While I know many couples with children that met at work, I also have seen the problems with mixing work, family and relationships together. I do agree that you have to first treat them with respect as people and professionals. In return it is fair to expect them to act as professionals in the workplace and to separate their personal lives together and their work lives together. I do know of people that met while working for or with one another that later had one person change companies or departments so that their professional integrity would not be challenged, along with protecting their image in the office. It may be too easy for one person to give another preferential treatment to the other over other workers, especially when it comes to subordinates. There is also the risk of flair ups over personal fights or bad breakups. I know of cases of brothers working together where in one case they worked well together and another case also where it did not work out well. In one case one brother was not an owner and took advantage of the brother that was the owner, and in another two brothers were co-owners in the same firm and worked hard hand-in-hand. Also think of the Petraeus case where he told the biographer more than he should have because she was more than just his biographer.

    Anonymous User
    Title: CFO
    Company: Local Government Agency
    (CFO, Local Government Agency) |

    And Ross, when we expect employees to separate their personal lives from their work lives, we should expect their employer to do the same.

    Too many times, including in my current CFO position, I've seen "all-in-the-family" type employers cross the line into people's personal lives. There can be consequences and often there are.

    There needs to be boundaries for both sides in work and personal lives. We're all happier when there are.

    And, with the diversity of culture/ethnicity in today's work force, I find this to be more important than ever.

    Anonymous User
    Title: CFO
    Company: Local Government Agency
    (CFO, Local Government Agency) |

    Emerson:

    The board is simply addressing a potentially serious exposure item. It's part of their fiduciary responsibility.

    And, I find it interesting that you at first, use the "consenting adults" argument. But later inject your own morality by saying "as long as they aren't married".

    You're projecting your own values on personal conduct while saying you wouldn't do that.

    Believe me, I understand the desire and temptation to do so. However, employment laws may not see it that way.

    The best of course of action IMHO is to keep personal lives separate from work lives by all parties. We wouldn't even be having this discussion if we all did that. i.e. if two people at work have a relationship, it wouldn't even be an issue if they kept it to themselves and avoided any improprieties while at work.

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