OK, I know I said a couple weeks ago in the wake of the David Letterman sex scandal that we need to stop caring so much about who politicians and celebrities are sleeping with.
But now it’s come out that Jimmy Kimmel may also be having an affair with one of his employees, I feel the need to address the whole sleeping-with-the-boss issue.
Some say bosses and employees shouldn’t mix, end of story. The inherent power dynamic makes it unfair and unworkable. Others say if two adults consent to a relationship, it’s none of our business — let them sort it out.
My feelings lie somewhere in the middle. Given that most of us spend more time at work than out socially, employer-employee romantic relationships will happen no matter what sanctions or rules we put in place to try and stop them.
And let’s face it: Older, more experienced people in positions of authority are exciting, especially when you’re young, inexperienced and without much power. The problem is, things can very quickly go from: “Woohoo, I’m sleeping with the boss; I can do no wrong” to, “It’s over, I’m suddenly powerless again —?and I still have to be nice to the jerk in order to keep my job.”
So, while forbidding employer-employee relationships isn’t realistic, these kinds of relationships inherently come with a completely different set of playing cards. And rather than be scandalized by them or try to stop them, I think it would be far better to admit these relationships happen and educate people about how to handle them responsibly. For starters, both parties need to be honest about their motivations. As the boss, are you getting involved with an employee just because you wield the power to get away with it? If things don’t work out, can you be civil and fair or will you make his/her work life miserable?
As the employee, are you doing it to get ahead? Are you prepared for the judgment from colleagues who may feel you’ll get preferential treatment? Because unless you’re both honest and realistic about the added complications or fallout that almost inevitably result from an employee-employer relationship, you’d better be prepared to fold early in the game.