How should I deal with two married employees having an office affair?
Two people on my company’s board have been having an affair, which until now has been kept a secret from the rest of us. Both are married and their respective partners have found out, which is particularly uncomfortable for everyone as one of them used to work at my company. The affair is over now, however there has been all sorts of unpleasantness between them and gossip is rife all over the company. What should I do?
Ruth Blakemore of Safe Business Services writes:
This is about performance and how their individual performance is affecting the performance of the business. It is your responsibility, on behalf of the shareholders, to ensure individual – and therefore business – performance is optimal. Don’t worry about the fact that the problem is rooted in a personal issue – that is not your concern.
I would advise you take the following four steps:
1) Check your employment contracts. There should be a section about general conduct, particularly in the contracts of senior staff. If there is, refer to it. If there isn’t, introduce one.
2) Referring to that (if you have it), have a formal on-the-record chat with both board members individually, with another director sitting in. Steer clear of any discussion about the relationship per se. This is not about how they are feeling, but about the business bottom line. Explain that effective teamwork is a necessity.
State exactly what you would like to see from them in terms of appropriate conduct from now on, covering conduct at board level, how they communicate with their teams and how they should support each other functionally. Provide examples. Secure a commitment from them to deliver and a recognition that a failure to deliver will put their position at risk.
Specify the business risks too, including matters such as a distraction of staff in general and the potential to reduce credibility or authority etc. Explore formally their suitability to carry out their responsibilities in their current state of mind and their enthusiasm about their positions in the business. Let them know that you will be repeating the meeting in four weeks’ time or sooner should any issues arise.
3) Document your expectations about performance and attitude.
4) One on one, request the support of a few infl uential team members of any level to get the business’ staff to move on from this topic. Deliver to them a simple, clear and consistent message about what you are asking them to say and do
.Ruth Blakemore is the chief executive officer of Safe Business Services, a professional services fi rm dedicated to contractors. www.safebusiness.co.uk