Perception Can Change a Brand’s Reality: Answers

Recap: Jacob Donnelly has been Sasha Smith’s client for nearly two years. For just over a year, he’s also been her beau. They assumed that when people found out they would presume that special deals were made. Their industry is a small one, where word travels fast. Smith’s boss, Tanya Crenshaw, especially was girding for a backlash among other clients. And with shareholders to answer to, Donnelly’s boss, Chris Wheeler, also needed an action plan.

November Winner Randye Spina, Chief Solutions Officer, Affordable

First, the obvious: It happens all the time, whether companies like it or not. I once worked for a company that had us all sign an HR handbook that included the ‘no fraternizing’ policy. Ha! All this while, a guy on my staff was dating a female VP in the office. That was 16 years ago, and they’re still married and very happy. And, don’t forget that Bill Gates married his marketing director. So, the question really is how to manage it.

I would recommend that Smith resigns the account. This will lessen the chances of suspicion and perhaps give someone else a chance at a job promotion. Then, I’d say, “Here are my account books” to prove that everything is out in the open and that there were no special favors.

Let’s face it: Jobs and companies come and go. If this really is true love, then I say, “Mazel Tov—but get your resumes ready.”

Other responses

? Jim Zawicki, Marketing Communications Manager, Sartomer Americas

If it’s proven that Smith hasn’t given any special deals to her beau Donnelly, then what they do in their personal life should remain personal. Neither has proved to have a lack of integrity.

To make both companies more comfortable, I would recommend that Omega arrange to have an alternate account rep call on Donnelly so there will be no perceived potential conflicts of interest going forward.

? Sue Cardwell, Marketing Manager, INFOTOOLS

Congratulations to Donnelly and Smith. How great that work has brought an unexpected benefit.

This shouldn’t affect their professional relationship at all. They’re professionals; let their employers treat them as professionals. While they’re at work, they will act in the best interest of their companies. If anything, they will probably feel obliged to document their decisions more carefully than they would normally to make sure that they are open to scrutiny. Donnelly shouldn’t have to work with someone different purely because he has an out-of-work relationship with Smith.

? Amber Leigh (website response)

If I was in this position, I don’t know what I would do. Present facts and paper trails, things that are considered evidence? I wouldn’t use the word evidence though; it seems too suspicious for some reason. I don’t like the way that it rolls off the tongue in this situation. Casual and cool would be a good way to approach the situation—or at least pretend to approach the situation. Humor could easily make the situation less awkward. But about what? Also, what would we consider too far (hence, the slight inappropriateness that surrounds the whole ordeal)?

Can I perhaps offer everyone else on the outside world a chill pill and simply say, “It’s none of your buisness what we do in our personal lives. During our professional lives that is exactly what we are: professional”—expressing that both sides are professionals. How would we express [that]?… It’s all about appearances and illusions. It’s an art form really.

? Greg Salerno (website response)

Let’s all grow up here. The purchasing situation (as described) seems to have had sufficient management oversight, so everyone should hold their head up high and proceed with the truth: Nothing untoward occurred, business-wise.

This seems to be a good example of the “blurred” line between business and private life that 24/7 email connectivity (among other devices) has inspired. But few [situations] outside life-and-death circles require that connectivity or the false sense of importance that it brings.

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