After-hours activities like Gibson’s sex scandal can negatively impact one’s job

September 16, 2023

Personal lives and work lives can collide – and there are increasing examples of the consequences of after-hours activity on our work life.

Michigan State Football Coach Mel Tucker is accused of engaging in sexual misconduct with a female vendor from the school. At the center of the case is a FaceTime call that he had with the vendor in which he allegedly engaged in a sex act while on the call. Tucker contends it was consensual.

The school launched an investigation, and Tucker has been suspended pending the outcome of an upcoming Title IX hearing to determine if he violated school policy.

The Washington Post reported that Susanna Gibson, candidate for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, and her husband engaged in sexual acts live on camera while they solicited money from viewers in exchange for sex acts. She contends the discussion about this activity is an invasion of her privacy.

The now former CEO of oil giant BP, Bernard Looney, resigned last week after he admitted he was not “fully transparent” about previous (presumably sexual) personal relationships with colleagues when he was promoted in 2020. In 2020, he reportedly disclosed a “small number” of relationships that occurred before he was promoted to CEO, but recently the company learned there were more relationships than reported.

All of these recent examples demonstrate the reality of how a person’s personal activities can affect their work — and not in a positive way.

BP said in its statement, “The company has strong values, and the board expects everyone at the company to behave in accordance with those values.” It said, “All leaders in particular are expected to act as role models and to exercise good judgment in a way that earns the trust of others.”

When posting on social media, engaging in sexual relationships that could create a conflict with work, sending sexual images via a dating site, hosting an “Only Fans” account where money is exchanged for virtual sex acts, or engaging in conduct that generally would be perceived as unbecoming by a reasonable person, consider the impact it could have on your career.

While this is especially true with anyone who seeks to be a leader in an organization or in political office, I have investigated concerns from other employees about a co-worker with an “Only Fans” account, and another case in which an employee exposed (inappropriately) sexual images of his manager that he secured on a dating site.

Although the sharing of that image was inappropriate (the employee sharing the image was terminated) and possibly a violation of Virginia’s “revenge porn” law, it nevertheless caused the person who was in the image to be, according to his words, “humiliated.”

Employers seeking to enforce their values on employees need to be clear about expectations for after-hours activity, including social media.

One of my clients has a policy that says, “Ethics is defined as the principles of conduct and discipline in dealing with what is right and wrong. Ethics encompass the moral duty and obligation to act with reasonably good judgment. Employees … are expected to confirm to high standards of ethical behavior. We are judged not only by our official actions and behavior, but also by our personal activities which could bring discredit to us and (the company).”

A policy like this one sets the tone of expectations.

Employers should set standards and values and then hold employees consistently accountable for those values.

Most employees don’t realize how their personal life can impact their career, so explaining that in advance through training is important.

And if you are planning to run for political office or serve in a leadership role in the future, consider how your actions today could impact that in the future.