Reader, you may know that I used to work for a company that had some rather unorthodox policies. One of those was the "no gossip policy", the other was the "spousal interview". Over the past two years, I witnessed these two intersect in a way that I never thought would be possible - two (maybe more) employees were fired because of something their spouse said, one on a comment on their own social media and one in-person during a dinner conversation.
As much as I may want to make this completely about examples from that place, it has caused me to ponder just how much should my opinions or actions should affect my spouses’ employment. Should it matter? Should her actions or opinions affect my employment?
My wife is a nurse, and has been working in the COVID ICU at two hospitals for over 18 months. One of these hospitals requires their entire staff to get one of the COVID vaccines, where as the other does not. Some employees consider the lack of a mandate a feature. This has been a highly charged issue that not only affects the staff, but their families as well. We are both fully onboard with and understand the science behind these vaccines, but what if we had differing opinions?
What if she was against mandates and chose to work at the hospital that did not require them, but I felt it was stupid for a hospital that was treating people with this very contagious virus to not have staff vaccinated against it? What if I was vocal about it, either to friends or mentioned it in a comment on Facebook? What if I said “Well, I’m glad she has a job and can help people, but I wish they would require everyone who worked there to get the vaccine” to a friend at church, and that somehow made its way back to her boss?
Or what if she was neutral on the vaccine but I was wholly against it, and brought that up in my limited circles. Should that affect her job?
Fired and Disparaged
My former CEO recently chose to give an example of this at Liberty University. This is a variation of "The 5 Enemies of Unity" talk that he usually gives to business leaders who pay to hear him speak. This time, for whatever reason, he chose to add a new, highly embellished example to this talk in front of the live audience of college students.
Hand your negatives to leadership and work with leadership to solve the negative situation. You don't go and talk to the lady at the front desk and say "those guys in technology, they can't get my computer fixed, i can't make any sales". I'll fire your butt for doing that.
We have one little character who went to a bar and told the whole bar that Dave Ramsey ( his wife worked for us), told the whole bar we were trying to kill his employees because we all went back to work, and we fired her the next day.
That's kind of harsh.
Yeah, that is harsh for him to stand in a bar and tell everybody in there I'm trying to kill employees when I give him money through his wife's work to feed his kids? This is a tear down, not a build up.
I don't want her in my organization because she married really poorly. [applause and laughter]LibertyU Convocation (YouTube Link)
Unless this happened to two different people, which would not surprise me at this point, I know the couple being talked about. All of the key points about this event were misrepresented.
- This was at a private dinner, not a bar. Liberty has a selectively enforced no-drinking policy, so maybe this was to play to that crowd.
- It was a conversation with a single individual, someone who used to work for this company years ago (who decided to report back that this conversation took place), not a large crowd.
- The couple in question do not have children, but they are a happily married couple.
If being disparaged in front of thousands at Liberty was not enough, the team she worked on was told she chose to leave to “work on her marriage,” something that people who were at this meeting told me. They could have just been told “if your spouse complains about us, you could be fired”, but maybe that would have caused some to question how crazy of a concept that is.
Was this a game of telephone, where by the time the message got to the CEO it had been distorted beyond recognition? That certainly is possible. But it has gotten me wondering how many of these leadership examples are as hyperbolic, if not complete fabrications.
Clean Up Her Website
Another example comes from my wife, also about someone working in a “Christian” workplace. My wife was acquaintances with the wife of an employee of this company. This wife ran a childbirth business (doula, midwife, etc.). Her website and social had pictures with women in the process of giving birth. If these weren’t in the context of childbirth, they might be considered NSFW, or "not safe for work".
When the “Christian” employer got wind of it, they asked the husband, their employee, to get his wife to remove those images from her website. The way my wife heard it, he refused and resigned on the spot.
Is this normal?
Is this just something that “Christian” companies do that can't handle dissenting opinions? Are there “normal” businesses that would fire an employee for something their spouse does or says, or attempt to get their employee to control the content of their spouse? At-will employment is certainly quite common, but should this be a legitimate reason to fire someone?
What is the reasonable line? is it company size? Severity of the disagreement? Disagreeing about a core product or also about a decision unrelated to the core business? Is it the size of the audience?
Am I allowed to be grateful for my spouse having a good job, but still disagree with something the company is doing? Or can I agree that the company provides a useful service, but I disagree with some public stance a high ranking officer in the company is taking?
Is the concept crazy to anyone else?