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POLL RESULTS: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody: (17 comments)

POLL: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody

Friday, May 21, 2010 - 12:00 AM

A reader writes... Q: I'm friends with a prominent, successful man in my community. We are both middle-aged men. We've never discussed our private lives or our marriages, but I'm wondering if I should bring it up. Over the past six months he's been escorting a woman he works with — a much younger woman — to lunch, to meetings, to all sorts of social functions, many of them business-related. Gossip is raging that they are having an affair. This could be totally innocent for all I know, but it seems mighty suspicious. He has never behaved this way before. He has a wonderful wife and family and I would hate to see him ruin that with reckless behavior. Do you think I should warn him about what he’s doing? Maybe bring him to his senses? Or would I just ruin our friendship?

POLL: Does this man have a moral obligation to warn his acquaintance about his reckless behavior?
 
46% (710) I'm a man, and I say, "Yes!"
 
39% (606) I'm a man, and I say, "No!"
 
7% (121) I'm a woman, and I say, "Yes!"
 
5% (88) I'm a woman, and I say, "No!"
1525 people have voted in this poll. (This poll is not active.)
Gadfly
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Re: POLL: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody (Score: 1)
posted Friday, May 21, 2010 - 01:41 AM (#56014)

The questioner does not specify the nature of his relationship with this person. Points for consideration:

1. Unless there is a very clear business relationship (e.g., this person is his secretary whom he brings to keep notes the old-fashioned way, or else some kind of personal assistant), the fellow is obviously causing scandal, and the person notes that gossip is afloat.
2. Even if the relationship is "innocent," this businessman is doing damage to his marriage and his children by giving the appearance of scandal.
3. Again, he doesn't specify the nature of their relationship. For example, are they co-workers or somehow involved in business together? Sounds like it from the description. If they don't talk much about their "private lives," how does he know this guy has a great wife & kids? Does he know the wife and kids personally? The questioner is leaving something out of the puzzle.
4. Morally, there is most certainly an obligation to protect marriage and keep another person from making a huge mistake, but let's look at it through the lens of legality and professional ethics, which brings us to
5. Since concern about sexual harrassment in the workplace became a mainstream issue about 20 years ago, one of the concerns people have raised has been how to distinguish sexual harrassment from legitimate workplace romance. Of course, in many professions (e.g., the military) fraternization between ranks has always been frowned upon for this reason. Many companies now have a broad-reaching sexual harrassment policy, due to the question of "hostile work environment," which discourage or set strict rules on inter-office relationships. Namely, when two co-workers get involved in a relationship, that not only effects them, and not only creates a potential harrasment complaint for them, but their behavior can spill over onto others (e.g., making others uncomfortable with their PDAS).

Obviously, these two men have *some* kind of professional or otherwise formal acquaintance, and obviously the guy hanging out with the younger woman is creating a "buzz," which is disruptive to the environment.

If we're talking about business-to-business, the scandal this guy is causing could end up hurting his own business. If they really do work for the same employer, it definitely falls under work environment issues, because the behavior is generating disruptive gossip.

Therefore, regardless of personal friendship or morality concerns, there is an obligation of professional ethics to address the relationship.


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DanialArin
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Re: POLL: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody (Score: 1)
posted Friday, May 21, 2010 - 03:00 AM (#56016)

The only thing I would suggest warning him about is the wagging tongues. Let him figure out on his own what the potential implications are. Beyond that, it's probably best for your own sanity is staying out of it until/unless it actually starts to impact your working environment.

Also, I don't know how recent your information on his family is, but it's possibly that this started happening because he's already having issues at home, rather than being a potential future cause thereof.


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jasonred
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Re: POLL: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody (Score: 1)
posted Friday, May 21, 2010 - 03:52 AM (#56017)

Of course you should WARN him.

The real difficulty is doing it in such a way that you don't sound like you're ACCUSING him of anything.

Tough, but do-able


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HandEFood
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Re: POLL: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody (Score: 1)
posted Friday, May 21, 2010 - 05:05 AM (#56018)

I reckon, as a friend, you can tell him.

Guiger, can you please phrase the poll responses better in future. Here you've asked "do you think A or B?" but offered the responses "yes" and "no". I think it's fairly clear this time, but there are other times I haven't been able to work it out.


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Stevarooni
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From: KCMO

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Re: POLL: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody (Score: 1)
posted Friday, May 21, 2010 - 06:33 AM (#56020)
In Response to DanialArin (#56016):

My thoughts exactly. Warn him that there's office gossip and then back off; unless it's interfering with work, as an "office friend", it's none of your business.


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Atavism
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Re: POLL: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody (Score: 1)
posted Friday, May 21, 2010 - 07:06 AM (#56021)

I really have to go with others on this one. Don't accuse him of anything. Don't tell that him what he's doing is wrong. Just make sure he's aware of the gossip and then step aside.


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stuckinontario
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Re: POLL: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody (Score: 1)
posted Friday, May 21, 2010 - 10:16 AM (#56023)

Yawn. Gossip will ALWAYS rage in the workplace, & often it's just that - useless gossip that gets some people through the day when they should probably be concentrating more on their work.

My guess? Middle-aged man being seen all over the workplace with a "much younger woman" = EGO BOOST.

Probably not much else to it, & I'm sure this man knows EXACTLY what it looks like. He's probably getting a kick out of the gossip that comes back to him, & although his behavior's probably not a smart move on his part as far as his wife is concerned, his marriage may not be as "wonderful" as it appears if he is indeed feeling a need for that ego boost.

IMO, though... whether it's an affair or not, it's really nobody's business but his own.


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Mutt
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Re: POLL: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody (Score: 1)
posted Friday, May 21, 2010 - 10:52 AM (#56024)

I would be curious as to if she was a new employee or a transfer from another area or something. My dad is a businessman and has put me in communication with many of his various contacts*. It sounds to me like she's being groomed for a position or simply being integrated into the system. "Many of them business-related" screams that to me, other functions could be to give her contacts that are otherwise helpful, but indirect to business. Also, my Dad has had many newer/younger employees who go to him as sort of a councilor to learning their way in the field. He might work with them on a regular basis for two years to help them get situated. It really varies.
Of course, if she was being groomed for a particular higher-level position, it probably wouldn't be wise to run around yelling about it to a lot of older/have-been-there-longer employees as there could form a lot of resentment.

*My field is totally different, but some of his contacts have useful contacts for me.

I would simply warn him that there is gossip forming about him and his associate and leave it to him to deal with it. It could be very damaging to his reputation within the workplace if it got out of hand. But, leave it at the business side, and that's all.


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Azerik
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Re: POLL: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody (Score: 1)
posted Friday, May 21, 2010 - 12:07 PM (#56026)

I guess I'm going to be in the minority here. I say that you really ought to stay totally out of it.

If he's a really *good* friend you might pull him aside and mention that people are talking, but that is as far as I would take it personally.

People are going to do what they are going to do and very little you can say will change it. The only thing that would happen from getting in the middle of this situation is that you will come out damaged in some fashion. Either you will pick up some of the stain that is attaching to him, you will lose his friendship totally or something else.


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Guigar
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Re: POLL: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody (Score: 1)
posted Friday, May 21, 2010 - 01:40 PM (#56027)
In Response to HandEFood (#56018):

@ HandEFood: Actually, the question was phrased as such:

POLL: Does this man have a moral obligation to warn his acquaintance about his reckless behavior?

That's a Yes or No answer.


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DanialArin
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Re: POLL: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody (Score: 1)
posted Friday, May 21, 2010 - 02:21 PM (#56028)

She could also legitimately be:

His new assistant
His new apprentice
His new boss
His boss's daughter
His former student
His cousin, or niece, or sister
His wife's cousin, or niece, or sister
His stepmother
His daughter from an earlier relationship

By "sister" I also mean she could be his half-sister or step-sister, as well as the possibility of their parents having had a long stretch between their oldest and youngest kids.

All of those relatives might be stretching it, though it's not uncommon for a relative to ask someone successful to bring their kid into the business, especially if they're fresh out of college or grad school with a degree in a relevant field, and doubly so in a rough job market.

It's also possible that his wife has decided she really no longer wants to attend these events, particularly the work-related ones. He may have another co-worker (or a boss) that she's uncomfortable around.

Bottom line is, there are a variety of possible reasons why she's hanging around him, and why his wife may be absent from these things, and he's her escort instead. I might wonder about the functions that are not work related, but she may also be new to the area, and he's helping her build a social base.

But aside from the warnings on the gossip, it probably really is best to stay out of it. If he wants you to know what the deal is, he'll tell you when you warn him that people are talking.


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zmortis
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Re: POLL: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody (Score: 1)
posted Friday, May 21, 2010 - 05:21 PM (#56029)
In Response to DanialArin (#56028):

I will join the general observation that if this is someone you consider more than a casual neighborhood or business acquaintence then as a friend giving them the heads up about the impression they are making in some quarters is advisable. This is not a moral or ethical obligation, but it is possible to view it as helpful for them to understand a certain perspective of their activities exists. You should not ask them for details or be looking for confirmation of something nefarious however. You also should not go ratting them out to their "loved ones" in the hopes that they will conduct an intervention in the behavior either.

The personal experience I have in this area is with a single friend who was in a supervisory position at my workplace who was spending a lot of time in and out of work socializing with a direct subordinate. I let my friend know about the impression that other people were having about the nature of their social realtionship, and how it could possibly impact the future career of both individuals (our employer has non-fraternization rules regarding direct supervisor/employee relationships). My friend established a more profesional relationship with their subordinate, and remains a friend of mine to this day. I didn't consider it a moral or ethical obligation, but I did consider it something a real friend would tell you to help you stay clear of potential trouble. My friend accepted my input in that context without my being judgemental or condeming of their behaivor.

I hope this helps.


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yahngess
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Re: POLL: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody (Score: 1)
posted Saturday, May 22, 2010 - 08:23 AM (#56032)

Yes I think you should. Tell him that people gossip and that you are worried he's doing something stupid and that if he needs you; youu'll help. And then stop at that and leave it at that until if and when your friend wants your opinion.
You are adults and he can do whatever he likes as long as he doesn't hurt people. You do not know what arrangements he has with his wife and it doesn't concern you.
Don't tell his wife, don't participate in the gossip - be a good friend.

And if he IS acting stupid because of whatever lame excuse, take him out for a beer, try to make him see reason and then leave it at that.
...

That's what I would do.


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Murgatroyd
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Re: POLL: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody (Score: 1)
posted Monday, May 24, 2010 - 04:17 AM (#56040)

Well, if these are your concerns, and you really want to help him, but you're worried about jeopardizing your friendship with him if you make a misstep ... then why not warn him anonymously?

Set up a throw-away e-mail account through Yahoo or Google. Write up what you've told us (stressing that you have no idea what the facts are, but that people are starting to gossip); be sure to disguise your writing style to help preserve your anonymity. Send him the note with "Clyde, please read this" as the subject line (assuming that his name is Clyde, of course). Mission accomplished.


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Darkness
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Re: POLL: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody (Score: 1)
posted Monday, May 24, 2010 - 01:53 PM (#56042)

A middle age man doesn't need any warn or advice about younger women.
Also the question didn't specify if the woman is hot, if she dress like a business or sexy.
Sounds like is not anyone's problem, just plain gossip...
And, if someone would "give him a warn" it will be definitely his wife, not a friend. A real friend would find out easier just saying "man, I'm so proud of you hitting your coworker, wish I be you"...


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TheOriginalJes
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Re: POLL: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody (Score: 1)
posted Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - 12:19 PM (#56056)

If you've never discussed your private lives or your marriages, how exactly to you qualify yourself as a friend?

Stay out of it and tend to your own affairs. Anything else may either cost you or drag you in.


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pakopako
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Re: POLL: Moral Obligation... to be a busybody (Score: 1)
posted Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - 07:09 PM (#56064)
In Response to TheOriginalJes (#56056):

One-sided friendship? (Eh, maybe it's just me.)

Like DanialArin said, it could be a number of reasons. But since the writer is a friend with said other, it shouldn't hurt to ask who the new looker presuming there is no immediate follow-up judgment if it is a mistress.


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