Charles Schumer: The Michael Scott of the Senate

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticizes House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) saying he's standing in the way of progress.

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY The New York Times thinks it's cute and romantic that New York senator Chuck Schumer pushes marriage on his staff. I find it creepy. The paper reports:

"Cupid's arrow lands where it will, but many of the couples say that Mr. Schumer, a New York Democrat, has an unusual knack for guiding its journey. He keeps close track of office romances, quotes marriage-friendly Scripture ("God to man: be fruitful and multiply"), and is known to cajole, nag, and outright pester his staff (at least those he perceives as receptive to such pestering) toward connubial bliss."

Okay, let's count the problems in this paragraph alone. While it's legal to quote scripture in the office, it also raises the chances that one of your employees will claim religious discrimination. And telling workers to be "fruitful and multiply" is not only weird, but also inserts you in the most personal aspects of their lives. The decision to have a baby shouldn't involve your boss -- ever.

Additionally, pushing marriage on people may seem adorable for the "Yenta of the Senate," as the Times calls Schumer, but it's just out of bounds. Ah, but he only pesters those who are "receptive" to his pestering!

Let's talk about that. When you are the boss, you have power over your employees. Period. You hire and fire. You promote or put on probation. All bosses have power over their workers (There are some people with manager titles who lack these powers, but then they aren't the true boss, anyway.)

When you have power over someone, you cannot rely on your perception of who is receptive to your "pestering" about highly personal issues like marriage and childbearing. Your employees will pretend to be receptive because you are the boss. It's called sucking up.

Schumer also has authority that most other bosses just dream about. Not only can he hire and fire people at will, but he's also a U.S. senator, with connections and power galore. If you have political aspirations (whether as a lawmaker, staffer or even a lobbyist), the last thing you want to do is have the senior senator from New York not like you. Even if your plan is to return to the private sector, having a powerful senator not like you is a very bad thing.

The Times describes Schumer as running a "boot camp" for the next generation of Democratic leaders. This suggests his behavior is inappropriate both inside and outside the office. Staring at a recently married former female employee's midsection and saying "Well?", as he is reported to have done, may not be illegal, but it is rude and creepy. Is it any surprise people appear to indulge such behavior? They need his influence to advance their careers.

Writes law professor and blogger Ann Althouse in commenting on Schumer's antics, "He sounds like the Steve Carrell character in 'The Office' -- the inappropriate boss who doesn't know the normal boundaries."

I'll be blunt: This is inappropriate office behavior. Good bosses don't push their employees to marry or reproduce, even in jest. They say congratulations when an engagement is announced or buy a baby present. Otherwise, keep your nose out of it.

For further reading:

My temporary boss was abusive
5 signs you're a lousy boss
How to avoid a boss that's bad for you

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