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Workplace Romance A No-No at Gates Foundation 70

Posted by Hemos
from the prolly-a-bad-idea-almost-anywhere dept.
theodp writes "The past week has brought NY Times coverage of the workplace romance of Gates Foundation co-chairs Bill and Melinda Gates, as well as Newsweek coverage of the workplace romance of Gates Foundation CEO Patty Stonesifer and her subordinate, Slate Editor-in-Chief Michael Kinsley. So the Foundation's Conflict of Interest Policy comes off as just a tad hypocritical: 'Additionally, certain types of relationships between co-workers may create impermissible conflicts of interest. For example, a romantic relationship in the workplace may raise perceptions of bias and favoritism.'"
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Workplace Romance A No-No at Gates Foundation

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  • how did Bill and Melinda meet?
  • Or are Bill and Melinda Gates just good friends?
  • by Apple Acolyte (517892) on Monday July 03, 2006 @09:05AM (#15649479)
    While I was furiously searching for something insightful to write, I determined that this story is essentially devoid of value. I don't even know if there is an opportunity to trash Gates here. I know this is effectively a four day holiday for many people, but certainly there must be other stories with a modicum of news value worth posting.
    • Seriously. Should we be expecting a new usweekly.slashdot.org for the juiciest celeb gossip of the tech sector? I love the title for the first link "The past week has brought NY Times coverage of the workplace romance of Gates Foundation co-chairs Bill and Melinda Gates" And then the only thing in the article I could find: "As he spoke, he shared a stage at the New York Public Library with both Gates and his wife, Melinda, a Microsoft executive he married in middle age." I mean, we're not at the total
  • Every workplace on earth (or at least in the US) has a policy in the employee rules warning against office romances.
    Even ones that are owned and managed by husband-and-wife couples.
    • by dk-software-engineer (980441) * on Monday July 03, 2006 @09:31AM (#15649581)
      In the company I work in (danish company) more than 10% of the employees are married to each other. And we are hundres of employees, so I think there's enough statistical data to toy with.

      What if office romances was not allowed here? Why shouldn't it be allowed, as long as they are not romancing in the office? I regularly see people coming to work holding hands, and people from different departmens eating together, and that's it. I don't see any problems here. (But if people here keep marrying each other (or hiring spouses), this could be a family business in a few generations...)
      • by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:04AM (#15649723) Homepage
        Where I went to high school, we had 4 or 5 teacher couples who were working in the same school. I'm not sure why, but it seems like teachers have a very high rate of being married to other teachers. Probably has something to do with meeting in teacher's college. Anyway, I don't think it really caused any problems. I think the problem comes more from starting new relationships within the organization. You go out for six months, and then she cheats on you with tim in the cubicle next to you. This could create some very bad team dynamics. This is why I wouldn't recommend pursuing someone you have to work with on a daily basis. On the other hand, if you work in a large company with a thousand employees in the one building, and you spend 8 hours a day there, then it's probably your best chance for meeting someone. Outright banning office romances is a bad thing. If people get into relationships, and they break up, and then can't work properly together, then it's probably time for management to step in.
        • Probably has something to do with meeting in teacher's college...


          I think it has more to do with meeting in the teacher's lounge.

          The fact is proximity provides opportunity for these relationships to flourish - regardless of what line of work you are in.
        • "If people get into relationships, and they break up, and then can't work properly together, then it's probably time for management to step in." That's the point. Management doesn't want to have to "step in" in the first place. Ergo, no office romances.
          • But romance isn't necessary nor sufficient for office fights. If I'm friends with Bob at the office, and I lend him my car, and he crashes it, then wee might get in an argument. If someone eats my day-after-thanksgiving turkey sandwich that I put in the fridge, then that might cause some kind of conflict. It's when the conflict gets in the way of us doing our jobs that they should step in. They can't stop conflict from happening all the time. All they can do is make sure that it gets resolved when it b
            • "If I'm friends with Bob at the office, and I lend him my car, and he crashes it, then wee [sic] might get in an argument."

              Oh, come now. Which is more likely: a friend crashing a car, or an office romance turning sour? The former might happen every 20 years, the latter every few months.

              Also, I'd like to point out that I disagree with forbidding office romances. Let them try to handle it like adults. If they can't, fire 'em.
        • On the other hand, if you work in a large company with a thousand employees in the one building, and you spend 8 hours a day there, then it's probably your best chance for meeting someone.
          then I'm doomed.
      • Why shouldn't it be allowed, as long as they are not romancing in the office?

        Because some people (most probably) have a hard time leaving personal business at the door. What if you get in a fight the night before or that morning, now you have to work with one another all day and possibly resent one another all day, this could affect business in a major way. What if one of you is a manager? Then people will cry favoritism on your decisions involving S/O, plus what if you have to discipline him/her, that w
        • Because some people (most probably) have a hard time leaving personal business at the door.

          They shouldn't be working side by side in any case. Not many relationships can survive being together 24/7. And even if it does, it's probably still not healthy.
          But to the company, that's no different from two people that is just different in the wrong way. There's nothing special about to good employees that just doesn't work too well together. Just don't pair them, done.

          Leaving personal business at the door can be

          • They shouldn't be working side by side in any case. Not many relationships can survive being together 24/7. And even if it does, it's probably still not healthy.

            So you're saying that it isn't healthy for a couple (married or not) to start a business together and grow it? Let's face it: when the business is small at first, they'll probably end up working in the same office or room for quite a while. And who better to trust as a business partner than someone who you mutually love?

            Had more people taken

            • So you're saying that it isn't healthy for a couple (married or not) to start a business together and grow it?

              I'm saying "not many relationships can survive it" and that "it's probably not healthy". From this you can deduct that some relationships can survive it, and there is a (low) probability that it is not unhealthy. Of course some will beat these odds. Most won't, but that's how business is.

              Had more people taken your advise, probably half of all businesses started as mom-and-pop concerns wouldn't have
      • In the company I work in (danish company) more than 10% of the employees are married to each other. And we are hundres of employees, so I think there's enough statistical data to toy with.

        I think Americans are most apt to sue for small things, so having a policy against workplace romances in place protects the company from being a party to sexual harrassment lawsuits.

        -b.

    • Every workplace on earth (or at least in the US) has a policy in the employee rules warning against office romances.

      Including Microsoft? You do know that Melinda was employee before she was a wife, don't you? Nothing new there, Bill has always put himself above such petty things as rules he expects others to obey.

      • Nothing new there, Bill has always put himself above such petty things as rules he expects others to obey.

        That's why it's good to be the boss. You get to take long lunches, come in to work late, and date your employees.

        Actually being the boss and dating an employee would be putting you at a lot of risk for a lawsuit if problems developed in the relationship. He asks her out, she says no, six months later she doesn't get a promotion that she thinks she deserves... is it retaliation for saying no, or just bec
      • Bill has always put himself above such petty things as rules he expects others to obey.

        Okay. I'm not a fan of Bill Gates the-Microsoft-Chief-Architect, but COME ON! Bill most likely had nothing to do with writing this policy; this type of policy is so standard as to render it boilerplate for any business. I would not be surprised if those who seek to specialize in HR policy get a little handbook filled with legal boilerplate and a tutorial on "How to Thwart the Efforts of IT Applicants" upon graduation

    • That is simply false. I've had many jobs, mostly in office type environments in the U.S. and have never seen this in any policy manual.
    • Dunno about US, but none of the places I've been working in Finland have warned about romances in any way.
    • These policies are just made so people keep the behind doors stuff out of the office. If an outbreak of domestic dispute arises it's an easy way to axe the entire probrlem right out of the office legally I assume, and keeps the drama out of the office pretty well in my experience.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    For example, a romantic relationship in the workplace may raise perceptions of bias and favoritism.

    Isn't that just a factual statement? Relationships aren't forbidden, they're just telling you to exercise caution.

    Besides, when an organization's mission is essentially to push money out the door, there is indeed more potential for conflict of interest. EVERY transaction is subject to scrutiny, because there can be legal consequences for favoritism. Less so with a corporation.

  • RTFA Submitter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sparkhead (589134) on Monday July 03, 2006 @09:13AM (#15649512)
    It doesn't say they're forbidden, it says they should be disclosed to HR. It's a fairly common practice.
    • Yeah, disclosed to HR so they can find some other reason to fire you :P
    • It doesn't say they're forbidden, it says they should be disclosed to HR. It's a fairly common practice.

      For judgment and advice, presumably? "You may bone our property only with our (ours == owned by Bill Gates) permission." The M$ micromanagement knows no bounds! Bill's attitude always has been "What's our is ours and what's yours is ours," I suppose he means it.

      If they were being hypocritical, it would at least show a knowledge of morals.

    • Quite frankly, it is absolutely none of HR's business whom I happen to be dating. My personal life is just that - Mine and *personal*.

      This habit of some companies thinking that they own every aspect of your life really annoys the hell out of me.
  • by MImeKillEr (445828) on Monday July 03, 2006 @09:31AM (#15649579) Homepage Journal
    Unless one of them didn't report directly to the other. Of course, then neither of them would be a subordinate.

    Still, its hyprocritical.

    While talking about the foundation: Anyone else notice that Warren Buffet is so rich that he hired Bill Gates to spend his money?
    • Re:Yep. An issue (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
      I'm understand or see where the hypocrisy is, I haven't seen a good explaination. The reason that superior/subordinate relationships can cause problems is of potential for blackmail or favoritism, as well as the risk for sexual harrassment lawsuit.
    • While talking about the foundation: Anyone else notice that Warren Buffet is so rich that he hired Bill Gates to spend his money?

      Yes, Jon Stewart of the 'Daily Show' noticed that last week, and made exactly the same comment on his show. I'm guessing you saw it too. :-)

      • And there was someone else (maybe the same guy?) who made the exact same crack on another story about the donation. The best thing about it is, it never gets old. Ever. :P
    • Anyone else notice that Warren Buffet is so rich that he hired Bill Gates to spend his money?

      Why yes, Stephen Colbert may have also noticed that.

      You know, "Funny" mods don't actually get you karma, so there's really no reason to plagiarize actual funny people in an effort to get modded up.

      • I don't watch Colbert or The Daily Show. I don't have time.

        Ever think that maybe someone might think the same thing as someone else? And god forbid they happen to state it similarly. I can't quote someone I don't watch.

        I guess neither you nor the other responder had considered that, eh?

        As for Karma, I'm not whoring. I could really give a shiat as to what my score is.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:10AM (#15649770)
    Don't look for many comments on this topic...methinks the average Slashdotter has enough trouble with "romance", let alone the more specific "workplace romance".
    • You know, on the surface it's funny, but if I had any mod points left I'd mod you insightful. And here's why:

      How many women work at typical /. reading workplaces? While that might not pose a problem for a small percentage of the population, most men find it difficult to carry on a workplace romance in a workplace with no women! I recently left (to attend law school) from a major domain name registrar which employed a great many women. Women in executive positions, women in HR, women on the call center f

      • Chances are that there are a fair number of members of the opposite sex at companies where the average slashdotters work. They may not work in the same department, but they are indeed there.

        I don't know about you, but I often enjoy talking to people who don't do the same things professionally that I do. It helps me keep perspective on things and makes sure I get out on occasion. If all of my friends (including girlfriends that I have had) were into all of the same things that I was, I'd be bored out of m
        • Yeah, but combine that with an HR department that has a hair trigger when it comes to firing people over 'uncomfortable workplace/sexual harrassment' issues and you get an environment where you could lose your job for merely asking someone out. Remember, geeks aren't that great at social interaction and communications. What we may think is perfectly acceptible may trigger a "Ewww..that creepy IT guy is hitting on me" email shitstorm that will culminate with you unemployed by the end of the day.
          • I can't really comment on the "creepy IT person is hitting on me" part because I usually end up being the one that gets approached. I tend to read people fairly well. It's just one of those things.

            As for the rampant screams of "sexual harassment", some of them are deserved, yes, but a lot of those situations arise because people don't tell the person in question that something they are doing is making you uncomfortable. It really comes down to people taking responsibility for themselves and working thing
  • May I know why every hiccup from Redmond gets noticed here?
    OSTG is now founded by Microsoft?
    May I have my share?

    Ivan.
  • FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EnglishTim (9662) on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:46AM (#15649973)
    Well, not exactly FUD, but certainly wilfully misinterpretation.

    If you read the linked-to guide, it is primarily talking about situations in which an employee of the foundation has a relationship with someone who is a beneficiary, or potential beneficiary of the foundation.

    Remember that a large part of the foundation's work is to give other organisations money. Obviously they need to ensure that conflicts of interest are known about and that people aren't using their influence to get money passed on to their loved ones. In their position, it would be madness not to have a policy like that, and I'm sure most similar organisations have something similar.

    The document is mainly about relationships with people external to the company, but there is a small section about coworker romances. That section makes it quite clear that disclosure of office romances is only encouraged in situations where a conflict of interest could be a problem. The guideline is really very reasonable:

    When deciding what kind of relationships should be disclosed, consider the situation from the perspective of an outsider and whether the relationship is of such a nature that it could raise an allegation of an apparent or actual conflict of interest, and then err on the side of transparency, as disclosure helps to alleviate or avoid future misunderstandings.

    I assume then they would be talking about relationships where for instance the career advancement of one partner would be decided by the other partner in the relationship.

    Nowhere in the document does it seek to discourage such workplace relationships.

    The poster is just trying to whip up a bit of anti-Gates feeling out of thin air.

    Nothing to see here, move along!
  • This is good policy. Yes the article said all that had to be done was report to HR, however I think it should be policy to avoid it period.

    I once had wood for a nice woman at work. I told my father about this, and he gave me some advice. Son, never dip your dick in the company ink well.

    It only took 3 seconds to realize he was right. It may seem obvious to most here, but hey I was young and needed a smack in the head like that... All the drama and other BS needs to stay OUTSIDE THE WORKPLACE thanks.
    • I once had wood for a nice woman at work. I told my father about this, and he gave me some advice. Son, never dip your dick in the company ink well.

      Bleh. Depends what the woman is like and how desperate you are to keep the job at all costs. If you ask me, good, interesting women are harder to come by than good jobs. And remember that you spend 1/3 or more of your waking life at work, so the development of workplace romances isn't really sufficient. You have the added benefit of being able to see the p

  • Personally (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lonesome phreak (142354) on Monday July 03, 2006 @12:00PM (#15650504) Journal
    I shun from workplace relationships. Mainly because I don't want the people I work with to know a damn thing about my personal life...because I work in the Bible Belt at a large comapny. I am afraid of some girl telling her co-workers how I drink alot, enjoy "dark" music, how most of my books on my shelf are about the occult, and my other habits...I sorta have to lead a double life because I'm afraid of the backlash.

    But I don't have too much trouble finding women outside of work (at least for a semi-random hookup), so I'm not looking too hard. I really don't like the whole "dating" scene, which reminds me of a drawn-out pay-per-view drain on my money with little guarentee of anything besides being treated like a chump.
  • I'm working at a startup and I got my girlfriend an internship. Well, I mentioned to my boss that she was a good programmer and wanted a job near campus for the summer. So, interview, hire, etc.

    Well, we're going to have some very bad team dynamics here in a few days since I'm breaking up with her tonight since I found out she's been cheating on me. Thankfully not with anyone else in the office. But there's only 10 people in the company total, including the 3 interns of which she is one. So, yeah, it's going
  • Seems a bit unfair.

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