Dear Aunty B,
I hope you can solve this one because it is doing my head in. I have a delightful PA who does a really good job. The problem is she has slept with half the office and it is causing huge issues.
The women are bitching about her and the men are competing for her attention. I walk out of my office and there are usually about half a dozen blokes standing around her desk. But somehow she gets all her work done and she is far better than my last PA who couldn’t work a computer or put tasks into priority order.
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I have raised the issue with our head of HR who says the fact she is causing uproar is no reason to sack her. What do I do? I can’t sit down with her and tell her to keep her legs together.
Where to from here?
Dear Where to,
Heavens. At least having sex on your mind is better than working on your annual report.
If it was me? I would ring that acquaintance whom I never really liked but whom is always whingeing about never being able to find a good PA, line her up for the job, talk about what a terrific future she is going to have somewhere else, announce that your computer can now do her job and send her packing with a nice little payout. As for karma? That’s the name of a soap. Or maybe a rock band.
Anyway, given that is not a very responsible answer, I also did consult on your behalf our great friend and IR lawyer Peter Vitale. He, as good lawyers do, looked at it from a risk perspective and immediately turned puce.
You, my friend, could be halfway to a sexual harassment claim the minute one of these guys steps over the line with their ardour because, as we know, blokes can get their wires crossed when grabbing the wrong end of the stick.
He also shunts the blame straight back to you. Yes, you! Why, he wonders, are you not addressing the obvious productivity issues with the blokes hanging around like flies?
Here are his five steps to peace:
- Step 1: Crack down on work station barflies with teenage hormone levels – tell them to move on and get back to work. If they keep doing it, take disciplinary action.
- Step 2: Implement sexual harassment policies and training immediately, highlighting the risks of “social” liaisons with workmates; enforce the policy.
- Step 3: This sounds horribly sexist and the PA is not to blame, but have a think about whether a more sombre dress policy might be appropriate.
- Step 4: Carefully implement a policy which addresses relationships between workmates. You can’t, nor should you, try to ban them (disclosure: I met my wife at work), but there are still professional standards within the office environment and, more seriously, warnings about potential conflicts of interest which should be out there.
- Step 5: Grow up and make some decisions.
Now I am certainly not endorsing step 3 and think, in fact, he means the men should wear less colourful ties. But there you are: Lots of suggestions to deal with this tricky situation. I am sure, readers, you will have more, so send them in.
Your Aunty B
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This piece was first published on December 5, 2012