Taking the high road

Immoral behaviors at work are obstacles to a successful career

“Don’t get your honey where you get your money!” It’s some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten.

When I went to college, I went to school full-time during the day and held a full-time professional job at night. I even went to summer school to absorb some of the winter load. It wasn’t fun, so when I graduated, I was looking for fun.

I got an engineering job at Raytheon’s West Andover plant, where over 5,000 people worked. There were plenty of women, and I was hunting. A young engineer with an apparently bright future was popular.

It wasn’t long before things started getting tangled. I wanted to play the field for a bit, and they all wanted exclusive rights. Last week’s date and this week’s could become instant enemies. My boss took me aside and gave me the advice above. Then he introduced me to a couple of guys who wished they had taken it. Their promising careers had been derailed, and it was hard for them to get moving again.

Lesson learned. From then on, I did my hunting elsewhere.

Years later, at Digital Equipment, a plant manager was caught on a conference table with one of his staff. They were both married to other people, who also worked in that plant. Within hours, the thousand people who worked for him knew, and of course two marriages were on the rocks.

She had had a meteoric rise, and all of a sudden, her peers and subordinates wondered if it was from talent and hard work or something else.

It wasn’t great for morale. Both careers tanked, and they left the company. Ken Olsen even quoted the Ninth Commandment, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife,” in a major address.

In my own career, I lost out on two promotions because I wasn’t interested in two high-level women. It’s not anything I could ever prove, but if you want to know what it feels like, read Michael Crichton’s “Disclosure.”

Ending relationships has a way of turning the best of friends into something else. And if the relationship is coerced, you’ve already started on a losing platform.

During the last election, Mike Pence was running for vice president. I remember reading an article that said he never met with a woman alone. Whether it was breakfast, lunch, dinner or in his office, he always required the presence of a third person. The media ridiculed him; I thought it was pretty smart.

Once an accusation is made, it’s almost indefensible. Everybody believes it. Your friends and supporters will be afraid to defend you because they’ll be accused of being just like you.

Now, many of these accusations are probably true, but are they all? In the case of a recent Senate race, accusations dormant for 40 years suddenly surfaced and derailed the campaign. We may never know if they’re true, but the damage they’ve done is no less real.

And of course, there’s nothing new in any of this. It’s been going on for thousands of years, and the results are usually the same. What goes around comes around. Live like a crumb, and it’s only a matter of time before it all unravels. Even presidents get caught, and the resulting damage is permanent.

In order to get things done and done well, we usually need the willing and even enthusiastic cooperation of others, and that’s very hard, if not impossible, to get in an environment where people are playing around. Competition is becoming more and more severe. Immoral behaviors are major obstacles to high performance.

Admittedly, sexual desire is often the most difficult of our passions to control, but failing to do so usually has catastrophic consequences in both our personal and business lives.

Take the high road and go for the gold! 

Ronald J. Bourque, a consultant and speaker from Windham, has had engagements throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 603-898-1871 or RonBourque3@gmail.com.