5 Reasons You Need to be the Morality Police

When you started your business, you did it because you had a great idea. Or at least, you had a better idea than other people, and you thought you could make a reasonable living at it. You didn’t do it so you could monitor the love lives of your employees.

While I encourage you to stay out of your employees’ personal lives (do not “friend” them on Facebook, for instance), as the manager or owner of a small business you do need to play morality police, or face the consequences. Here’s why.

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22 thoughts on “5 Reasons You Need to be the Morality Police

    1. Probably. If Bob is lying about that huge portion of his life, how on earth can I trust that he’s being honest with my business?

    2. The growth of polyamory relationships (which seem to be especially prevalent in tech fields) raises some interesting questions.

      Suppose that Bob and Betty are happily married, but they meet a coworker–Bertrand–and Betty thinks he’s rather dishy. Bertrand shares this sentiment, and the three of them collectively decide to add him to the relationship as a “secondary partner” of sorts. Betty and Bob remain happily married, but sometimes Betty goes on “dates” with Bertrand, and on special occasions the three of them have a grand old time in a hot tub.

      For the sake of exploration, we’ll assume that there are no overarching concerns: nobody supervises or reports to anyone else, everyone works in different departments, and the relationship is genuine.

      How should HR respond to this type of situation? (Do we treat it as a “marriage-plus”? Should we count it as an affair of sorts? Do we just want to ensure the relationship is documented and leave it at that? DO we want to document it?)

        1. I live in Seattle, a very liberal city and tech hub. I know of no polyamory relationships outside of some blog articles noting this “phenomenon”

          1. Jeff, the definition of “trend” is that the person writing the article knows someone who knows someone.

          2. I live in Boston and have come across a few. Not a lot, but a handful. I think it’s more whether people feel comfortable telling you things they consider private and nobody’s actual business.

            For a while I didn’t know ANY and some friends informed me that I give the impression (clothing, Pennsyltucky accent, talking about fishing and hunting on the weekend, driving a pickup truck) of being very conservative. When people realized that I was not judge-y about what consenting adults do, they were much more willing to share that stuff with me.

            You can’t figure that something doesn’t happen just because you don’t know anyone like that. Probably you DO, you just didn’t realize they did that. And the more disparaging you come off to social issues, the less you will be told about it happening around you.

            1. I’m not saying there aren’t any out there, just that it’ll be a long time before we’ll need to update the policy manual.

  1. My rule is no dating at work. I made this rule for two reasons:
    1) Even if the guy and I are blissfully married, I want to be able to get away from him (especially if we’re arguing).
    2) I cannot afford to lose a job over any guy.

  2. What if Bob is in an open relationship? It’s ludicrous to kibitz in people’s lives when it has NO material impact on your business. Butt out, HR!

    I still love you, EHRL. 🙂

    1. I am not a fan of bosses digging into their employees private lives, which I said at the beginning. But when it starts to interfere at the office, then yes, I think it’s reasonable to have consequences at the office.

  3. I work in HR for a big organization. Six digits big. And no one here would give a fig if someone were having an affair. In fact, I am sure at any given time, statistically, many employees are.

    I am completely flabbergasted actually that there are organizations that do, or HR professionals for that matter. Would Suzanne review relationships to determine if married employees were legally separated first? Would it matter if there were an alienation of affection first? Do I need to look into how long it has been going on?

    Questions that I as an HR Advisor do not want to ask, and have no reason to ask. And do not care about.

    I guess goes to show, everywhere is different.

    1. I would never, not in a million years, ask. As long as they keep it out of the office, no one knows, and no one cares.

      It’s only when it comes into the office that it’s a problem. So if you’re having an affair, whoop-te-do, until your wife starts calling, your girlfriend starts showing up in tears and the whole drama explodes on my doorstep. Then it’s “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

      1. Earlier you said you would probably fire someone for cheating because it means he cannot be trusted with your business. Here you say only when outside relationships are physically intruding with work.

        In my office, we would not terminate someone for cause without asking them about the alleged misconduct. Someone crying at the door claiming to be a girlfriend would not be enough. But if you are saying you would terminate someone for that, but not ask them about it first? Hard-nosed.

        Security would not let in spouses / girlfriends in my office. Sure someone could be terminated for taking too many personal calls at work, but that would be unrelated to whether the calls were from a cheating spouse / girlfriend / uncle. And it would take a lot of calls that was affecting one’s work, not for the calls themselves, or the cheating.

        1. Here’s the thing. If I don’t know about it, clearly, I’m not going to act on it. If i do know about it, it’s already affected the office. So, yeah, it’s a trust thing. If I can’t trust you, I can’t have you working for me, end of story.

  4. You would think the number one rule for an affair would be not to let anyone else know about it. Boss and coworkers would be included in that group known as “anyone else”.

    As for dating coworkers, my workplace is the unsexiest place in the world, and is a real moodkiller.

    1. In certain social milieux, a polygynous sex life is considered a marker of virility (to the point where wives *almost* expect it) and men *want* people to find out about it.

  5. Note: Mme Lucas’s (very good) advice applies to the U.S., but elsewhere, you need to be careful. In many other jurisdictions, you could not fire a salaried employee for having an extramarital affair unless the employee’s ethics and personal image directly and demonstrably impacted the ethics and/or image of the organization (i.e., a religious minister or an ethics teacher who cheats on his wife).

    In France, in particular, you cannot fire an employee without “real and serious” cause, meaning you have to cite facts of faults the employee has actually committed directly related to the office. The French code contained a provision allowing employers to fire employees in whom they have “lost trust”; such a provision might have allowed for the firing an employee whose personal conduct was obviously reprehensible, but the courts have for several decades held this to be unenforceable (unless of course material facts can be cited for the lead-up to the mistrust, facts which are themselves “real and serious”) as it is too vague and subjective and therefore can easily become the instrument of arbitrary abuse.

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