'Never get your sex where you get your checks': As a CEO, here's why I banned office relationships between coworkers


I am firmly opposed to romantic relationships within the workplace. Throughout my 30-year executive career, including a decade spent as a CEO, I adhered to a straightforward rule: "Never mix business with pleasure." I never engaged in office romances, nor did I allow myself to work alongside a spouse or partner. The workplace is already filled with diverse personalities and potential political minefields, and I firmly believe that navigating romantic involvements only exacerbates these challenges. 

In my experience as the chief marketing officer at HGTV, I observed numerous married couples and romantic relationships among coworkers. It became evident that these romantic entanglements had a detrimental impact on workplace cohesion, disrupting trust and transparency, which are essential for driving positive business outcomes. 

For instance, I encountered a situation where a vice president within my marketing group asked me to meet with her husband, who was a member of my creative team. It was an uncomfortable experience, as the husband approached me with demands for a raise and promotion, leveraging his wife's position within the company. When I declined his requests, their negative attitudes and disruptive behavior significantly impacted the morale within the team, ultimately leading to the necessity of letting them both go.

In addition to the disruptive impact on team dynamics, workplace romantic relationships often led to discrepancies in talent distribution, with one member of the couple overshadowing the other. This resulted in situations where individuals were primarily hired to accommodate a high-profile partner, leading to resentment and dissatisfaction among other employees. Furthermore, when romantic relationships in the workplace soured, the fallout often caused significant disruption and unfair judgment, particularly impacting the careers of the women involved.

From a leadership perspective, it is important to cultivate unity and manage relationships within the workplace. During my tenure as CEO, I enforced a policy of full disclosure regarding any romantic relationships between coworkers. Upon disclosure, a timeframe was established for one person to seek alternative employment, ensuring a consistent focus on organizational values and the peace and harmony of the workplace for all employees. While my approach may have been viewed as stringent, I prioritized maintaining a professional environment free from the potential disruptions that can arise from workplace romances.  

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