Love Affair with his Boss: Not Possible

Rainer Stadler / When an employee is in a relationship with his boss, this quickly leads to unsolvable problems. It needs a clear and simple rule.

Many media outlets have picked up a message from “Zackbum” these days. Accordingly, the editor-in-chief of the Swiss TV SRF, Tristan Brin, and Barbara Lotti, the presenter of “The Club”, are a married couple. Love affairs are not really public affairs. But this case is about more than just gossip. As the editor-in-chief, Brien is also the head of the Lüthi. He told Blake that his relationship was known to the Revolutionary Front employees. In addition, he informs the relevant editorial departments, heads, human resources department, and administration. So there is transparency. To avoid a conflict of interest, Brin handed oversight of the “club” to his deputy, Gregor Meyer. He bears “full journalistic and personal responsibility,” according to Blake’s report.

Is everything okay with that? No, two commentators were found and referred to the senior vice president’s criticism of the composition of the “club” presentation on the failed framework agreement between Switzerland and the EU. Mayer had commented on the allegations, which commentators did not consider appropriate. Such a matter is the prerogative of the President. You can overlook this little knot. With Meyer as a member of the executive floor, the SRF has issued an official, binding statement on the matter.

The problem lies elsewhere. Can a boss-employee love affair – the question that also arises when gender relations are reversed – be “neutralised” internally by creating transparency and assigning direct responsibility? Doubts are justified. Imagine that the presenter of The Club was involved in a staff dispute that the deputy editor-in-chief would have to mediate or resolve. Would he mentally be in a position to make a decision in favor of the “club” woman, knowing that he could upset his “editor-in-chief”? After all, at the same time he has to make sure that he can work with Brin on good relations.

The question is purely hypothetical. But you still have to ask them—regardless of whether you think the two SRFs have the power of character to resolve personal conflicts with confidence and without abuse of power. Unfortunately, practice often shows that things work quite differently. If the bosses have a relationship with a person working in their “command zone”, then loyalty conflicts arise quickly, which overwhelm the lovers. If there are personal conflicts in the business environment, HR departments are also reaching their limits — if those affected can address the problems at all without having to expect retaliatory action from the boss. Who has the guts to do it in media companies where jobs have become unsafe anyway. Accordingly, unfair power relations arise. Conflicts often continue to burn, leading at best to proxy fights and consuming a lot of internal energy.

In the end, there is only one correct solution: there is no superior-subordinate relationship. If it does happen anyway, at least one of them must move to a department that is not within the chief’s purview. Such a rule may be strict and unfair to those who do not abuse their position. But it avoids desperate struggles and conserves everyone’s resources.

The planned expansion of media funding will be an opportunity to make good corporate governance a prerequisite – even for headlines that have long benefited from indirect government support.


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