(This is a follow-up to my August 18, 2010 blog article "My Friend Barbara 我的好朋友巴巴拉"
Human resources experts generally agree that fraternizing in the workplace (as opposed to "teaming up") should be discouraged. In fact, the Canadian Forces has taken one step further in recent months and relieved the duties of three senior commanding officers in Afghanistan, Haiti and the frigate HMS Moncton for allegedly having "inappropriate" relationships with their colleagues and/or subordinates, thereby breaching the Department of Defence's policies. That such behaviours may pose risk to military operations is understandable. But should fraternization be an issue when life-and-death is not part of an organization's business lines?
I have always subscribed to the theory that developing personal relationships at the workplace will create potential conflict of interest situations, which might hinder an executive's ability to make decisions in an impartial manner. A manager must not only steer clear of real conflicts but also of any perceptions of being in a conflict of interest situation. For example: A promotion given to someone with whom you have a relationship may raise other people's suspicions of favouritism and undue influence, even though the competition process is clean and no rules have been breached. The wise thing to do is to have full disclosure at an early stage and take steps to avoid the perceived conflict of interest situation by withdrawing yourself from the decision-making process.
However, as I mentioned in my August 18, 2010 blog article "My Friend Barbara 我的好朋友巴巴拉", there is a human dimension to the equation. Despite my staunch adherence to the conflict of interest guidelines, I had developed, unbeknown even to myself until after her accidental death, my liking of Barbara as a friend. The rigid workplace ethics at the time did not allow any mollification of professional behaviours under the guidelines. So, does it mean that an emotion suppressed by protocols could have been a friendship denied? That, I would never find out.
Now, I am not advocating unchecked fraternizing within the workplace. I am just wondering whether there is a neutral spot somewhere btwn the two extremes of strict professionalism and wonting nepotism, where friendship/fraternalism may survive, where we do not have to check humanity at the office door.
My other blog articles on Conflict of Interest:
* 利益衝突 / Conflict of Interest http://lotusandcedar.blogspot.com/2006/12/conflict-of-interests.html
* 人力資源管理: 在工作環境可否有友情或愛情? ∕ Human Resources & People Management: Should we sanction friendship and love affairs at the office? http://lotusandcedar.blogspot.com/2007/12/human-resources-people-management.html