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.
21 Workers Test Positive for Coronavirus at Rock n Roll Ralphs
HOLLYWOOD (KTLA) — Workers rallied Friday outside a Ralphs store in Hollywood where 21 people have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The group called on the store to take more aggressive action when staff test positive for the virus, and to ramp up efforts to protect the grocery store employees, who are considered essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic.
They said they speak for thousands of workers who are afraid they aren’t getting enough protection as the virus continues to spread countywide, infecting more than 24,000 as of Friday.
The Ralphs at 7257 W. Sunset Blvd. has had an outbreak involving several workers who tested positive for the virus, according to the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, which lists businesses and […]
‘Stay Put, Order In’ and Dine With Friends on Zoom, Says Mayor
WEST HOLLYWOOD — WeHo is home to some of the best restaurants in the world and our community members are used to gathering around restaurant tables and enjoying meals together. Now, there’s an opportunity to, instead, gather around kitchen tables at home and enjoy a meal (or many!) while supporting our local restaurants.
“One of the worst things about the Safer At Home directive is being disconnected from friends, neighbors, and the city around us,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico. “Don’t be alone if you don’t have to be – take advantage of the technology out there and invite a friend to Zoom in for Ziti or share some Farfalle over FaceTime.”
Mealtime is a wonderful opportunity to connect with friends, family, and loved ones using virtual teleconferencing technology, while partaking in your favorite delivered or takeout food.
Many West Hollywood restaurants remain open and are offering takeout, curbside, and delivery meals, which are sensitive to social distancing during the emergency. The City of West Hollywood and the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce have teamed up to offer a directory of “Stay Put, Order In” eateries in West Hollywood, which is accessible by visitingwww.weho.org/coronavirus (click the “Stay Put, Order In” link!) or www.wehochamber.com/dinein. This list is updated daily.
“We need to start hanging out together, and talking, and seeing each other again. So, why not plan to #WeHoDinnerConnect this week – maybe Saturday at 8 p.m.? Or Sunday at 7 p.m.? Or even just 15 minutes of screen-to-screen gossip,” said Mayor D’Amico. “And you don’t have to cook a thing… local restaurants have meals and menus tailored to take-away choices and they’re ready to send food over to your house or make arrangements for you to pick it up.”
If picking up food, remember to wear face coverings, which are required to enter essential businesses.
Amoeba Music Won’t Reopen Original Sunset Boulevard Store
HOLLYWOOD (TimeOut) — In a statement posted to its Instagram account on Monday, Amoeba announced that it would not be reopening its nearly two-decade-old flagship on Sunset Boulevard. Instead, the indie record shop will divert all of its resources to opening its new shop on Hollywood Boulevard, which they still hope to have ready in the fall.
“There are so many unknowns and uncertainties for a business like ours right now,” the statement reads. “The only way we can keep Amoeba Hollywood alive in the future is to make this difficult decision now.”
Our original story about the store’s GoFundMe campaign appears below.
It’s become a pit stop on music-lover’s tours of Hollywood, it’s hosted concerts from Patti Smith and Paul McCartney, and it’s weathered the Great Recession and the transition from CDs to MP3s to all things streaming. But with Amoeba Music’s future more uncertain now than ever, the massive independent record store is turning to its devotees for nearly half a million dollars to try to stay afloat.
In an essay on GoFundMe, Amoeba cofounders Dave Prinz and Marc Weinstein recount […]
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This Just In…
- Beverly Grove Man Charged for COVID Relief Loan Fraud
- County Hospitals Receive 300 iPads for Patients to See Family
- Processions to Cedars Will Salute Healthcare Workers on National Nurses Day
- WeHo Webinar: Loneliness, Isolation, Depression, and Anxiety During Pandemic
- Texas & California Wet Markets Show Full Extent of Vile Conditions
- White House Gift Shop Selling Coronavirus Commemorative Coins
- Joe Exotic Prison Has 2nd Highest ‘Rona Rate