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Yes, the Research Confirms: Managers Shouldn’t Sleep With Subordinates

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Yes, the research confirms: Managers shouldn’t sleep with subordinates

by Vanessa K. Bohns

(The Conversation) — U.S. Rep. Katie Hill recently stepped down after information about an affair with a campaign staffer, and allegations of one with a congressional staffer, came to light.

The second affair would violate the House of Representatives’ recent ban on sexual relationships between members of the House and their employees .

Whether such bans on consensual relationships are really necessary has been debated many times . And it seems reasonable to ask, shouldn’t mutually consenting adults be allowed to make these decisions for themselves?

Based on my research on power and influence, I believe the short answer is probably not.

Bans in the workplace

Congress is hardly the first institution to introduce a ban on workplace relationships.

A growing number of companies are clamping down on office romances, particularly those marked by power imbalances. A June 2018 survey found that 78% of human resources executives said their employers didn’t allow relationships between managers and direct reports, up from 70% in January. And academic institutions – including my own – are also increasingly prohibiting relationships between professors and students, deeming them inherently problematic.

In the past, some organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund, have been much more permissive.

Opponents of these sorts of bans consider them to be paternalistic overreach, arguing that institutions ought not police the private lives and relationships of mutually consenting adults. In other words, they believe two intelligent people with good intentions should be trusted to manage the power dynamics in their own relationship.

An unbalanced relationship

A key problem is that people in positions of power have a hard time recognizing the coercive nature of that power in an unbalanced relationship.

In one of my studies, participants asked other people for various favors ranging from the innocuous, such as to donate money to charity, to the unethical – to lie for them. In each case, the people making the request underestimated how uncomfortable others would feel saying “no.”

Follow-up work my PhD student Lauren DeVincent and I conducted found that similar dynamics play out in romantic relationships at work. Individuals who make romantic advances toward coworkers underestimate how uncomfortable the targets of their advances feel rejecting them.

Notably, in a phenomenon dubbed the “power amplification effect” by psychologist Adam Galinsky, these dynamics can be, as the name implies, amplified when there’s an uneven power dynamic. Even simple, polite requests can feel like directives when they come from your boss.

Yet people in positions of power tend to be oblivious to the influence they wield over others because they are less likely to take the other party’s perspective. This makes it difficult for powerful people to recognize when another person feels compelled to go along with their requests.

All of this means that people in positions of power can’t be trusted to recognize abuses of power they may commit when engaging in a romantic relationship with a subordinate.

Subordinates have blind spots, too

That ultimately leaves it up to the subordinate to recognize and highlight such abuses if and when they occur.

However, despite how emboldened someone might imagine they would feel to do so, research finds that we tend to overestimate how comfortable we would actually feel. For example, in research by psychologists Julie Woodzicka and Marianne LaFrance, the majority of women who read a hypothetical scenario about being sexually harassed during a job interview said they would confront the interviewer. Yet when these researchers staged an actual episode of sexual harassment during what participants thought was a real job interview, hardly any of the participants actually did so.

Bans on sexual relationships between supervisors and subordinates serve multiple purposes, such as protecting the involved parties from the risk of retaliation and preventing concerns about favoritism.

And they recognize that even intelligent, well-intentioned people can have blind spots when it comes to the power dynamics at play in their own relationships.

Vanessa K. Bohns is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at Cornell University.

The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.

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TikTok Moves into New Gensler-Designed Culver City Offices

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CULVER CITY — TikTok today announced the company is moving into a brand new home… a 120,000-square foot office in Culver City. The move further deepens TikTok’s connection and commitment to the greater Los Angeles area as it continues to grow its U.S. team, including key leaders. 

The new TikTok office spans five floors, which were designed from the ground up to embody TikTok’s fun and joyful personality. Creativity is synonymous with TikTok, so having a space that inspires everyone who walks through the door was a driving force behind the move. The heart of the space is a bright pink staircase that runs through each floor and follows a bespoke mural designed by TikTok’s internal design team.

“Located between the innovative tech companies in Silicon Beach and the streaming content companies at Hayden tract, TikTok truly sits at the intersection of technology and entertainment, physically and figuratively,” said Vanessa Pappas, general manager, TikTok U.S. “While we are a global company, having a permanent office in LA speaks to our commitment to the U.S. market and deepens our bonds with the city, and the talent and companies, that call it home.” 

The new office features a fully open floor plan interspersed with conference rooms, private phone booths, a stadium-style presentation and gathering space, and terraces to support indoor-outdoor work. A TikTok content-creation studio will be completed by the summer of 2020, providing even more opportunities for immersive and entertaining videos from TikTok creators and partners. The office is also dog-friendly, allowing TikTok’s beloved canine creators to visit as well. 

The office was designed in collaboration with global architecture and design firm, Gensler. “The new TikTok LA office is the result of two creative companies out to build a space that was inclusive, collaborative, and fun,” said Chris Mitchell, Design Director, Gensler. “We hope the space gives TikTok’s employees a home to be proud of and a place to inspire more of the entertaining content the app is known for.”

As part of TikTok’s commitment to inspire and encourage a new generation to have a positive impact on the planet, the company selected a LEED Gold-certified building that exceeds California standards. The new office features design and building strategies aimed at energy and water conservation, reducing C02 emissions, and improving indoor environmental quality. 

TikTok continues to be committed to building and growing the app experience for its diverse and growing mix of users, creators, and brands. Last year, the company built out its U.S.-based leadership team with key hires across functions including product, safety, content, music, sales, and operations. TikTok now employs over 400 employees in offices across the U.S., including Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, and New York. TikTok will also continue to invest in supporting both local and national initiatives relevant to its community.

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Endangered West Hollywood Rare Plant Nursery May Survive

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WEST HOLLYWOOD (LAist) — Leon Massoth has owned and operated XOTX Tropico nursery in West Hollywood for over 30 years. A beloved West Hollywood nursery that specializes in rare species has to shut down by the end of the month, but it appears to have found a new home.

Late last year, Leon Massoth was instructed to vacate XOTX Tropico (“exotics”) nursery—a business he started over 30 years ago. The owner of the property it sat on had sold the land.

Massoth was supposed to be out by the end of December, but gave up his security deposit to stay a little longer.

“We’re severely under the gun,” he told […]

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A Slightly Unhinged Investigation Into Lisa Vanderpump Conspiracy Theories

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A Slightly Unhinged Investigation Into Lisa Vanderpump Conspiracy Theories

WEST HOLLYWOOD (Vice) — Something is going on over at Lisa Vanderpump’s famed LA restaurants.

In the last week, the star of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, matriarch of the unswervingly-glossy-skinned narcissists on Vanderpump Rules, and business mogul has dealt with a series of unfortunate events befalling her establishments.

The rule of threes suggests that when weird things strike thrice, let alone all in the same place, it probably means something shady is happening—at least if you buy into conspiracy theories. And in the case of anything Vanderpump-related, it’s much more fun if you do. Let’s dive in!

On January 5, a Ferrari crashed into PUMP, her West Hollywood restaurant/bar known for its kind of gross food and ridiculous cocktail names […]

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