Do Consensual Relationships Affect The Work Environment?
On 21st June, Intel announced the resignation of their Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich, owing to “past consensual relationships”. Chief Financial Officer Robert Swan will take over as the interim CEO. The officials of Intel envisaged that the relationship was in violation of the company’s non-fraternization policy. The policy applies to all managers of the company. Intel has had the policy for many years; admitted Spokesman William Moss.
In an official statement, Intel Chairman Andy Bryant said, “The board believes strongly in Intel’s strategy and we are confident in Bob Swan’s ability to lead the company as we conduct a robust search for our next CEO. Bob has been instrumental in the development and execution of Intel’s strategy, and we know the company will continue to smoothly execute. We appreciate Brian’s many contributions to Intel.”
Intel said it had enforced the policy way back in 2011 and it applies to both direct and indirect reports of managers. If any employee suspects such a relationship in the company, they are required to report on it.
American Corporates are under intense pressure to enforce workplace policies on gender equality and sexual harassment. In this #MeToo era, relationships are often scrutinized and prohibited by companies, if they involve an imbalance of manager and employee. Just earlier this month, Guess Inc. co-founder Paul Marciano also had to step down following investigations into allegations of sexual harassment and assault, which was sparked by a public complaint by a model.
Indian laws are not stringent as compared to laws in other countries. However, today, all workplaces in India are mandated by law to ensure a safe and secure working environment free from sexual harassment for all women.
As per a report in the Economic Times, Randstad, an Amsterdam-based staffing company conducted a study in 2012 found that in India 70 percent of employees reported workplace romantic connections, compared with other countries where romantic relationships in the workplace are less common. In Japan, it is only about 33% whereas in Luxembourg it is 36%. One of the reasons for such high numbers is an absence of policies barring romantic engagements.
The Global Rights Index (2016), published by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), ranked India as one of the 10 worst countries for working people.
With #MeToo gathering momentum across the world, the Government of India has implemented the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013. Under that, it is the duty of the employer to provide a safe environment for work, however, there is no mention of any relationship policies.
Though there are no rules on relationships specifically, any form of written material that is sexual in nature, or contains sexual comments falls under the purview of sexual harassment. Comments about clothing, personal behaviour, or a person’s body also fall under harassment. Employees are encouraged to socialize and develop professional relationships in the workplace. But these relationships shall not interfere with the work performance and shall not affect the functioning of the workplace.
So is it okay for a junior to spend time with his/her senior and go out on a dinner? Can a junior spending so much time with a senior affect the work environment? Can a consensual relationship between a junior and a senior affect their performance? What can be the effects if the junior is a female? SheThePeople.TV asked a few people from the industry to know their views.
According to Aparna Jain, Author of Own It: Leadership Lessons from Women Who Do, “It’s pretty sticky in some cases because in companies where people work long hours you tend to start romances in-house. And it’s kinda normal to be attracted to one another. Many people have gotten married in companies. Having said that if the company is zero tolerance like Intel is – you have to follow it. Many companies ask you to declare your relationships and they shift the senior person so they don’t have anything to do directly with the person. That in most cases means that the company is watching out for this and making sure there is no chance of abuse. The relationship is openly declared. I think there needs to be a healthy mid-point because most people don’t have work-life balance. And this is bound to happen.”
In the Western countries like the USA, Canada, New Zealand, employees are being asked to sign “Love Contracts”, in which both parties declare about their relationship in writing. However, in India, there are no such agreements and experts are doubtful about whether these consensual relationship agreements will work.
Pallavi Pareek, founder of Ungender says that the consensual relationships can affect in two ways. First, it can affect the performance and second, it can also lead to cases of sexual harassment. Talking about the rules, she said, “Globally, the top companies have taken strict steps now wherein they say that no interpersonal relationships will be allowed. In India it’s still considered interfering into people’s private life. Say for Tomorrow, a personal relationship going sour can be twisted around and presented as sexual harassment.”
(Picture Credit: the way women work)