I’ve heard rumours that two of my employees are having an affair — and both are married with young kids. Should I step in?
— Len K., Windsor, Ont.
This is a tricky one, Len. Turning a blind eye would be easiest to do, but the HR consultants, business-behaviour experts and etiquette coaches I polled agreed that, if ignored, the situation could blow up in your face.
First, there’s the disruption that the affair is causing in the workplace. The cheaters themselves are probably less productive than usual, and the rest of your employees are clearly gossiping about the relationship, which is a definite distraction.
It gets worse. Your employees represent your brand. What if customers and prospects become aware of the relationship? Fair or not, some of them may feel that if the pair is unable to keep their personal obligations, they may not be able to keep their business promises, and may even question the values of your company as a whole.
What to do? According to one labour and employment lawyer I spoke with, it’s highly unlikely you could legally fire the adulterers with cause. (Blame the Supreme Court of Canada, which has set a very high bar on what amounts to cause for termination.)
So, you have very little choice but to take the uncomfortable step of speaking to the parties directly. Tell them that people are talking, and that their affair is negatively affecting the workplace. Ask them how they see the relationship playing out: if they plan to end the affair, then your problem is solved; if at least one of them leaves the company, then the problem of reduced productivity and office gossip will diminish — although you’ll still have one adulterer on your staff. And if they plan to continue? Then you might just have to turn that blind eye. Unfortunately, intra-office adultery is one of those nasty problems for which there’s no guaranteed solution.
What’s it like for an entrepreneur on the day their company goes public?
— Sandra M., Victoria
When Gord Reykdal’s payday loan company Rentcash began trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, the bourse’s management team took him on a tour of the trading floor, served him champagne and treated him to a celebratory dinner. But other CEOs, like Energy Savings Income Fund’s Rebecca MacDonald, say the day was business as usual — except for the occasional online check of their firm’s share price.
MacDonald says what’s more noteworthy is what happens directly before and after the initial public offering. She fondly recalls her “road show,” the multi-city tour on which CEOs talk up their company with potential investors. “It’s very exciting, but very scary,” says MacDonald, who prepared for two months. “If you’re not successful at the road show, you’re not going public.”
Another preparation for the big day can include education. Some CEOs receive media training; others spend time learning how to make the transition from private to public. The shift can be very difficult. One Vancouver-based CEO, who requested anonymity, admitted that going public means you “go from being extremely entrepreneurial to being extremely accountable.” In the weeks following his IPO, he received calls from shareholders questioning his every move: “There’s no IQ test to buy shares. Suddenly, idiots can be your boss.” He once went to an online message board to see what people were saying about his company: “It’s upsetting. People second-guess everything you do.” He never went to the board again.