ROMANCE AT THE WORKPLACE
By: Ranulfo (Noli) P. Payos
President Du30’s charge of immorality against a senator has been the fodder for gossips in the coffee shops or even in the board rooms. But the question that is apropos is, what does a manager do if there is romance, illegitimate romance in the workplace?
Our favorite Waray pidgin English expression says, “Even the frog who lives in the mud can love, say pa we?” Literally translated, it means, if the frog who lives in the mud can love, how much more for us? Sex is one of the greatest and most powerful instincts of a human being.
If you think sex happens only in the boudoir or in a family’s bedroom, you’ve got another think coming. Many years ago, in one of my nocturnal visits in a graveyard shift of a company as Personnel Manager, I caught in fragrante delicto (caught in the act) the President of the union having sex with a woman employee at the laboratory. I gave them a severe warning on record in their confidential 201 files. I never had any problem in my CBA negotiations with that union President after that.
Government employees under the Civil Service rules are strict when it comes to immorality. In the private sector, unless it is specifically written in its Code of Conduct, one can’t just fire an employee for immorality. A single employee who gets pregnant is entitled to maternity leave just the same and it’s none of the business of the company or the SSS to inquire if she is married. Neither is it one’s business to determine if a married employee begets a child from her paramour.
That does mean that we, in the private sector are morally decadent? Not really. We just simply don’t poke our nose into one’s personal love life unless the illicit relationship is so scandalous that it shocks the sensibilities of the employees or disturbs the peace of the workplace. Smooching or being lovey-dovey at the work stations or in the cafeteria that prompts the prudes to whisper, “Get a room,” would cause me to summon them and give them a strong advice and warning.
An illicit romance between a married man and married woman in my company that exploded one day when the aggrieved wife barged into the workplace carrying a knife trying to lunge at the adulteress already disturbed the peace of the company and threatened the lives and limbs of employees. I had to intervene and advice either one of them to resign as the improper relationship has already disturbed the peace and order of the workplace.
There was an incipient illicit relationship in my department that I had to stop. One of my AVPs was rumored to be chummy with a married woman whose husband worked in the middle-east. They had coffee and lunch breaks together and rode home in his car together. I had to advise him to stop the relationship whatever it is, whether platonic or otherwise. People were already talking behind their backs and he was losing his effectiveness as an executive.
The most blatant romance that I had to cut off was the case of a married lady manager with a married man as her lover. One lunch break, I happened to visit the Managing Director’s Office and I heard in his bathroom voices of a man and woman taking a shower and giggling. It turned out that it was the habit of the two to take advantage of the big boss going home for lunch to use his office as their love-nest with the tolerance of the MD’s secretary. Such audacity! Such nonchalance! To top it all, they even had the temerity to take a shower after the tryst. That’s what the French call, savoire faire.
The two lovers’ devil-may-care attitude may have been emboldened by the big boss’ libertine attitude towards sex. I was forewarned by well-meaning friends that I’ m joining a company that was called pejoratively as a Peyton Place, an allusion to a Hollywood movie in the 70’s that was steamy with sex scenes. In fact, I was forewarned by the big boss, “Be careful Noli with some girls here. They might try to seduce you and they will big mouth you if you don’t perform well.”
But I had to tell my American boss what happened. “We are no saints here, Fred (not his real name). But this has got to stop. Otherwise, you’ll remain the laughing stock of the staff. Your office is being made as a motel. It’s a slap on your face.” The girl had to resign.
Even the frogs in the mud, make love, say pa we. Yes, but we are not frogs. We are humans. What you do immorally is none of our business. But just do it prudently and don’t do it in the workplace. And don’t dip your pen in the company’s ink, if you know what I mean.
(The author is Chairman of Change Management International, Inc., a management consultancy firm. He is past president of PMAP, past president of Society of Fellows in Personnel Management. He is currently Vice-President of ECOP and Vice-President of ECOP Institute of Productivity and Competitiveness. He is a member of the Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (TIPC), Tripartite Executive Committee (TEC), representing the employer sector. He is a Commissioner of the Tripartite Voluntary Arbitration Advisory Council (TVAAC). He is co-author of the revised book of the late Perfecto Sison now entitled: “Personnel Management in the 21st Century” and author of the book, “Human Resources Management – From the Practitioner’s Point of View.” His email address is: [email protected])