It was great to catch up with David after too many months having passed without our usual coffee. Late into the conversation he broached a rather ticklish situation which gave me an insight into why the weeks had passed by.
David is in love!
David is 53, divorced for 5 years and has met who he describes as a bright, attractive and lovely woman aged 31.
A few might say: some people have all the luck, others may well describe him as a deluded and desperate old man!
Problem is, they met at work and he holds a senior executive position and she a mid-level management position without a direct report relationship.
His greatest fear is all the old stereotypes are likely to do the rounds of the office if, and when, the relationship becomes public knowledge in the corporation. And, he is keen for the relationship not to continue in the shadows – he wishes to retain and respect each others’ dignity.
He imagines something akin to Gold digger meets old fool doing the rounds of the office before long!
David claims that he sees no evidence of the potential for it all “…..to go pear shaped for all the wrong reasons….!”
At the same time, he sees the relationship as fitting outside the stereotypic bounds of ‘acceptable’ age difference. On the other hand, he thinks, ‘why should the relationship be constrained by such stereotypes’?
The few very close friends with whom he has discussed his predicament all talk about nothing but protecting his finances when the conversation gets around to the prospects of marriage – then: “What about children?”
David greatly enjoys his work and enjoys even more the company of his partner. He believes that both can fit into their respective lives without distraction.
But, he believes once it becomes openly known, the pressure will be on both him and her to accept the unacceptable – your partner or your job – and both he claims he cannot live without!
Both are fearful that they will lose at least their job and possibly each other under the spotlight of peer and superior’s scrutiny!
Sigmund Freud identified the two great human enterprises – Love and Work.
Yet love at work is considered toxic to the corporate enterprise.
Is this out of fear, jealousy, outrage, or the belief that a trusted senior colleague is about to enter the den of iniquity?
Conversely, is there a wider belief that the person who has climbed the corporate ladder should never forget their station in life and not demean themselves with the basic instincts of life!
“Ergo, I am a corporate being and I should not lose sight of the fact that corporate life is my only life”.
In such situations, three things really frighten the corporate world: the potential for scandal, the potential for abuse of power; and the potential for distraction. All three are seen as having great potential to threaten the bottom line.
So, what should David do?
Should he hold to the belief that when a corporate executive, one must place the corporate interest before one’s own – at all times?
Or pursue a meaningful relationship with dignity for both – and manage each equally.
Like the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, maybe it’s time to include a Gross National Happiness metric into the corporate Balanced Scorecard.
We all have a right to happiness in one’s life, including a meaningful relationship, as well as a job that equates with one’s capacities!
What advice do you have for David?