You remember that song by Kenny Rogers … “You got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run.” I know I know, now that jingle is in your head, me too, and it will probably be there all day, you’re welcome. I think there is actually good wisdom somewhere in that song and wisdom as leaders we can apply to the workplace cultures that we manage. What exactly should should we run from and when? This may bring you back to middle school, but nothing will kill your culture and nothing will cause you to lose credibility as a leader faster than flirting.

To be honest, I don’t want to talk about this, I mean, we are all adults and no one should tell us what to do with our lives. But I don’t want to talk about it because it crosses so many lines that HR says we shouldn’t cross. It crosses the personal relationship line and it can cross the religious line, both of which can end up on lawsuits of sorts. I am going to talk about it however because my fears of having a broken and toxic culture at work are greater than my fears of not doing anything to prevent a broken and toxic culture.

Here is a list of things to not do and things to do:

Not To Do:

  • Do not avoid the opposite sex at work.
  • Do not go out to lunch one-on-one with the opposite sex at work
  • Do not purposely sit close with opposite sex at work
  • Do not have closed door meeting one-on-one with opposite sex at work

To Do:

  • Work collaboratively on projects and initiatives with opposite sex at work
  • Have detailed work related discussion with the opposite sex at work
  • Have open door meetings with the opposite sex at work

These are silly aren’t they? We are in 2016 for goodness sakes, we don’t need to pay attention to these things at all, I am overreacting and offending people by now. We have all heard of great falls in business. People in high places fading never to be seen again. How do you get from here to there? It all starts with a simple small step.

If you had someone on your team responsible for budget management and they were engaged in borderline financial practices with their personal finances wouldn’t you think twice about what they were up to with the budget at work? The same goes for someone who is responsible for maintaining relationships on the team at work, which every leader at work is responsible for by the way. If they were involved in questionable relationships in their personal life, wouldn’t you think twice about their ability to manage relationships on the team? Integrity means wholeness. To me that means that someone is the same at home as they are at work as they are in the gym and at the grocery store. Their values and the way they treat people are whole and consistent. If I saw otherwise, or acted otherwise, people would start to question. Once people start to question values, the team impact is a slippery slope.

Are the lists necessary? Probably not, but the toboggan always goes slow at the top of the hill, at the beginning of the run. Once momentum builds, it is nearly impossible to stop it. Those lists are there to ensure the toboggan never even starts. That list is really a guard rail for me. I have these “rules” in place to help me see where I might not be acting with integrity. I share this list with others at work who see my behavior and have my permission to tell me when they see something that might be questionable.

To me this list says “RUN.” Being tempted in this way is always a lose for me so the best thing I can do for myself, my marriage, my family, and the culture where I work is run. I don’t try to manage these, if I have to meet with someone of the opposite sex in my office and have a closed door meeting, I tell someone. I won’t go in there without letting someone know I am going and then I tell them when it’s over. Just like we have controls in place with finances, we need to have controls in place with regards to relationships. Inappropriate activities with either lead to eroding trust and end up taking away more than giving, but while financial controls will be a part of corporate compliance meetings and get all the attention, inappropriate relationships will never be talked about in board meetings.

It is up to us as leaders to put controls in place to protect ourselves and our teams. We got to know when to hold’em, this means stay and fight, and know when to fold’em, this means run. Putting relational controls in place gives our teams and organizations a fighting chance to maintain a high level of relational integrity.


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