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Dudes: Office Hook Up = Lifetime Threat of Being Leveraged...

Surely you didn't think I'd let the Letterman situation go unchecked, did you?

If you've lived in a hole for the past week, you missed the disclosure by David Letterman that he's had relationships with several women who have been a part of his staff over the course of his career.  You also might have missed the details that he met his current wife through that means of introduction.  Which is fine, except for a small fact that the relationships didn't end once he met that wife.  Multiple relationships/hook-ups occurred after they were married.

Then, the expected happened.  A guy who gained knowledge of the relationships tried to leverage him (also known as blackmail) for 2 million dollars of hush money.  The disclosures from Letterman came because he was forced to go public sinceLetterman he went to the authorities for protection from the blackmail.

I've seen the movie before, minus the call for 2 million large. Note that I'm not talking about the fact you develop a meaningful relationship at work.  I'm talking about you being the workplace equivalent of Vince Vaughn in Swingers.  You aren't money, baby.  You're a caricature about to fall.

I don't care about what happens in your bedroom, gentleman (applied to the ladies also, but let's face it, the person who has the problem is usually the guy).  Your morality is your business to me.  What I will tell you as your HR pro is that every time that you chose to hook up with a fellow employee, especially one who is earlier in their career than you, you're rolling the dice.  I say that not because I care about your morals, but because it messes up the organization.

How does your hook-up hurt the organization?  Make a habit of it, and it's likely that you'll be leveraged at some point in your career in one of the following ways:

1. A full-blown harassment investigation or lawsuit.  Remember the scarlet letter?  It's hard to recover, especially if the charges are true.

2. More likely: Allegations that you failed to promote someone based on a relationship you had with that individual, or a relationship the candidate has with the person you hooked up with.

3. Also more likely: A low performer is at the end of the line with the company, and they blurt out that the reason they've struggled to perform is because they were so focused on why you didn't return their love.  Ugh. Seriously, it's noise that a low performer can make because it's true, the equivalent of throwing everything against a wall and seeing what sticks.  I've been part of those meetings, and it's like having a pile of dog doo left on your front steps.  Burning.

4. Damaged relationships on your team, including direct reports who become friends with your hook-up partner, and have a lower opinion of you as a result. 

5. Blackmail for things that cost less than 2 Million.  Implied threats. Stuff that limits your ability to make the best calls in your role on behalf of the company.

6. 10 other situations that I won't repeat in the interest of time and space.

I don't care about your morals. I care about the organization, and when you're a hit-and-run artist in the company, it's going to come back on you over time.  Almost always.  You're a freak? I don't care.

Someone makes an allegation, factual in-part since you hooked-up, but baseless since it was consensual, and the noise is used as leverage for another means?  Now I care.  Because it's noise that you caused, and it slows the enterprise down.

Do us all a favor and make like the company non-solicitation policy applies to your romance habits.



All good points as a capitalist.

What bothers me, as a woman who is interested in workforce equity and ethics, is the fact that many Fortune 100 companies turn a blind eye at executive behavior. HR asks employees to attend workforce conduct classes and sign the handbook, but C-level employees are managed by handlers and opt-out of these classes.

I'm also interested in tort reform and fixing silly employee litigation (points 2, 3, & 5). To your point on FOTv, allegations are free. That's too bad.


I love this post! Would it be bad if I directed all of my clients to this? ;-)

Often in HR we are seen as the unreasonable and unrealistic ones about office romance. The fact is we are the ones left dealing with the aftermath.

To all clients: You want to sleep around, be unfaithful to your spouse or partner go right ahead, but don't bring it in here. We have work to do and you are a distraction!


Well office hookup is there in every office, but the employee should not engage in such rubbish nuisance and just focus on there work more.

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