What if you became romantically involved with one of your staff?
It’s a bold and important question to ask during the interview process for a supervisory position and the correct answer is “I would not do that”.
When we give someone a position of authority over others, one of the main things we need to be sure of is their character. Research shows that people will generally respect the official authority granted to others and follow their directions. History is full of examples of otherwise good people doing terrible things because they were required to do it by authority figures.
Since people tend to follow authority, we need to be extremely careful who we put into positions of authority. Wisdom on how to lead and the character to use authority ethically are the most important factors in choosing leaders. Wisdom can be learned over time, character is there to judge right from the start.
One argument for having sexual relations with a staff member might be that it is “true love”. If that is the case, that’s great, but a leader with good character will resign their position before engaging in the relationship in order to ethically carry on.
All other arguments around the acceptability of a relationship between a leader and their staff cite some flavour of mutual consent. No matter the circumstances or good intentions of the leader these arguments carry no weight. In all cases, everyone else will question the character of the leader and be reluctant to trust that the leader has their best interest at heart. Trust in your leader is one of the most important factors in job performance and employee engagement. Anything that brings the judgement and character of a leader into question will have negative impact.
Improper relationships are one the best ways to destroy all trust inside a team.