Should Managers Date Employees? Sure, Why Not?

Last Updated Apr 16, 2010 2:29 PM EDT

The Birds and the BeesIf you think this topic's been covered to death, here's a headline: it's never been covered like this. You're in for a real treat here, folks. Get this. I've worked for four, that's right, four CEOs who dated and ended up marrying their employees.

Here are the gory details:

  • All four CEOs were men
  • All four CEOs were married when they started dipping their pens in the company ink
  • All four women worked directly for the CEOs, three as administrative assistants
To the best of my knowledge, all four couples are still together, reasonably happy, and yes, wealthy.

But wait, it gets better. I actually knew two managers who, as best friends working for a relatively large, public company, dumped both their wives for their administrative assistants -- at exactly the same time. My wife reminds me that both of the women were bitches (her words, not mine), if that matters.
Okay, so clearly, this sort of thing happens -- a lot. But the question is "should" it happen? Let's discuss that for a minute.

There are lots of things executives and managers shouldn't do. They shouldn't commit insider trading. And yet, top executives from IBM, Intel, AMD, McKinsey, and Atheros were recently busted for blabbing confidential information about upcoming earnings, mergers, and restructuring announcements to a hedge fund, Galleon, in the biggest insider trading scandal in decades.
It bears mentioning that the executives were all men and the person they blabbed to, like teenagers on their first testosterone high, was a woman. Hmm.

Executives shouldn't commit fraud either, but all too many do. They shouldn't over-leverage their company and make millions while shareholders lose their shirts, but they do. They shouldn't cut sweetheart deals with unions that'll forever keep their company from making money, but they do. They shouldn't drive their companies to the point of needing to be bailed out by taxpayers, but they do.

I know; saying that executives can do a lot worse is a crappy excuse for bad behavior that, at a minimum, exposes the company to potential litigation and creates the perception of favoritism. Which is probably why many companies have policies prohibiting that sort of thing.

Not to mention that it puts the employee at risk, although, if the relationship goes south and the employee's job goes south with it, there is legal recourse.

Still, folks are spending more and more time working, especially executives, so as a practical matter, it's a natural place to meet potential mates. Should managers and those who want to date them be penalized? Should two consenting adults be penalized?

You know, I guess I have to say it after all. They can do a lot worse.

But that's just me. I'm sure each one of you has one or two stories about executives or managers going at it with employees, so spill the beans so we can all widen our horizons on this fascinating topic and figure out if this is one taboo that should, perhaps, be untabooed.

Image: Hann Park, Dakar, Senegal, via Flickr CC 2.0