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Judgment Should Always Factor Into Decisions Related to Direct Reports (Anthony Weiner Edition)...

I haven't written a lot about the election. But this post is related to that.

It's about the baggage you assume when you believe in talented direct reports or candidates, but they have people who are freak Huma and hillaryshows in their lives.  They can be spouses, family members, friends, etc.  The bad actors they refuse to distance themselves from feels like loyalty and is seemingly unrelated to their work. 

That is, until the relationships harm your ability to do business.  It happens in a variety of ways, and Hillary Clinton just felt the reality 10 days before our presidential election.

Hillary Clinton generates a lot emotion on both sides of the aisle. But this late October surprise has nothing to do with her voting record, her foundation or Bill.  It has to do with Anthony Weiner.  Damn, that's a hard one to get your head around. More from The New York Times:

Carolyn B. Maloney, the congresswoman from the Upper East Side, was riding in a taxi on Friday when she heard the news: Emails discovered in an investigation into Anthony Weiner’s sexting had revived the F.B.I.’s interest in the case of Hillary Clinton’s private server.

The fury that many leading Democrats feel toward Mr. Weiner had been building for years. His sexting habits embarrassed them. His attempted political comeback in 2013 disgusted them. But their high regard for his wife, Huma Abedin, always kept them from going public. On Friday that was over.

Mr. Weiner, who lost his seat in Congress and his mayoral hopes after repeated episodes in which he sent lewd messages to women, is now under federal investigation for allegedly sending sexual messages to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina. In that inquiry, the F.B.I. earlier this month seized a laptop that contained thousands of messages belonging to his now-estranged wife, Ms. Abedin, a top aide to Mrs. Clinton.

Huma Abedin stood by Weiner, her husband, when some of the first sexting scandals came out a few years back.  More importantly, Clinton stood by Adedin as she stayed with Weiner. That's what you do with talented people who have life issues out of their control - you stand by them. Right?

The problem is that when you stand by great people who have issues going on in their life, eventually the lack of distance can become a perceived judgment issue for those you support. As time goes on, you can be co-opted into the judgment issue not because you did anything wrong, but because you failed to distance yourself from the crazy.

What's in the emails related to Clinton, Abedin and Weimer? Who knows? But the late October surprise has nothing to do with Clinton - that we know of - but the fact we're talking about means she's hurt by her ongoing decision to stand by a talented leade/direct report in her org with some public slime in her life.

Here's some non-POTUS ways you can get hurt by related decisions:

--You hire a member of your leadership team with a spouse who has some allegations towards them personally flying around. You then stand behind that person when the spouse is criminally charged. The rest of your leadership team seems to have a higher occurrence of raised eyebrows toward you and the body language that comes with that facial feature.

--You hire a great leadership team member and two years later their spouse takes a great job with your biggest competitor.  What do you do?

--Two leadership team members have the following conflict. Either they're in a relationship with each other or one of them is having a relationship with the other's wife/husband. It wasn't that way when they joined the team, but that's your current reality.

What do all of these things have in common?  They may or may not be reflective of your direct report's judgment, but the response of that direct report - what they do next - should guide what you do next.

They may choose to to act like nothing's changed, and maybe they're right.  But you have to continously evaluate whether you, your team or your company can get hurt by the evolving circumstances - and make the call to end the relationship if it's time to do that.

Hillary Clinton has stood by Huma Abedin time and time again. Now conversations that she's had with Abedin about Weiner's sexting to a 15-year old may come to light.  Who knows what's in those emails?

The good news for Clinton is she's running against a train wreck of a candidate in Donald Trump and may survive.

You?  You don't need an October surprise of your own. Be loyal with your direct reports, but when judgment and reality moves past a certain threshold, be prepared to move on.

Comments

mike

so serious question kris. I get logically it might be time to move on, and no doubt you can always disguise the reason for firing / "moving on", but is it illegal to move on because of someone's family or extramarital affairs? (i suppose or would think if its with another employee that is probably easier legally, but otherwise are you on sound legal ground?). Or is it a state by state situation.. or any federal labor laws you have to consider?

KD

Hi Mike -

I think that's a fair question. This assumes at-will employment and this is really in the space of "can't afford not to do it". My experience is that the higher the position, the higher the stakes for this type of judgment stuff.

The employee in question might be a star, but at some point you probably have to make a move. I'd be honest and tell them why you needed to move, treat them with class, give them a big runway to find something else, etc.

So - Most of this runs outside of legal considerations. HRC undoubtedly wishes she had moved in a way that treated Weimer's wife with respect and class, but moved nontheless.

KD

Matt Landrum

Man... such a TOUGH call. So many factors. The only thing that would stop me from standing by my friend/star is the reality of being responsible for the well-being of others (and their families) in my organization.

Come on November 9th! (and no, I'm not kidding myself that the circus will be over then).

--Matt

P.S. Dak Attack!

Abby Anna

Hey Kris,
Such a difficult task to say something about this type of question. I agreed with Matt comment, so many factors are there for these kind of judgments.

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