Put Trysters on Notice: No Hanky-Panky in the Bank

By Nadler, Paul | American Banker, December 6, 1994 | Go to article overview

Put Trysters on Notice: No Hanky-Panky in the Bank


Nadler, Paul, American Banker


Wow! Our second contest hit a responsive chord.

This was the problem: Two bank employees were having an affair in the storage room of the bank. The CEO's secretary found out about this through the bank's rumor mill. She, in turn, told the CEO since she served as his eyes and ears in the organization.

What to do? If the CEO took action, it would show he had an information source in the bank. Everyone would know it was his secretary. She would then be thrown "out of the loop," and his means of learning what was going on would be trimmed severely.

If he did nothing, the affair would continue, hurting morale in the entire bank.

Responses were numerous. One I particularly liked came from my wife, Beverly, a professional trainer. She, of course, is ineligible to win our award: presidency for a day of the Schmidlap National Bank. But her response is worth printing:

"The CEO should announce that for security purposes they are putting surveillance cameras throughout the bank, including the storage area where the affair had been taking place. This would stop the activity by denying the participants a place to `work,' while not letting on that the CEO knew what was happening."

While some respondents blamed the CEO for poor managerial style, Dawn P. Smith, assistant corporate secretary and legal officer of the Meridian Bancorp in Reading, Pa., analyzed the issue from the viewpoint of the actions and attitudes of the secretary:

"Having been an executive secretary to a CEO of a bank corporation and bank for many years prior to my connection with my current employer, I feel I can contribute an answer to your question:

"Number one, the secretary to the CEO is part of the problem. An executive secretary `sees no evil, hears no evil, and speaks no evil,' even though she is aware of the evil. This goes for everything during working hours. I am convinced there are those co-workers who take advantage of an executive secretary by `feeding' her information and happenings they want the CEO to know of but are afraid to tell him or her, therefore taking the heat off of them by having no responsibility in the matters. I know, I have been there.

"How can a CEO trust his secretary with his business and/or personal affairs if she `tells all' about others? He, too, is responsible if he condones this action by his secretary and expects her to do his investigative in-house work."

As to actual steps to be taken. There were several approaches.

Lanny R. Tribble, partner of Financial Management Solutions Inc. of Atlanta was the firmest, suggesting that both employees be fired if they do not resign when confronted.

Michael Matossian, vice president and associate general auditor of First Fidelity Bancorp in Newark, N.J. was gentler in his approach:

The CEO should discuss the situation with the director of human resources without revealing his source of information. The personnel director should, in turn, confidentially approach both employees and inquire whether a rumor that had come to his attention is true. The director should be mindful of a potential libel suit against the bank and therefore must temper his accusation unless he has documented proof.

Without pressing, for an answer, because most will deny such a rumor, the director should remind the employees of the code of conduct that requires professional behavior during working hours. He should insist that such behavior would not be tolerated in the future and would result in immediate discharge. What the employees do after work is their own business as long as it does not interfere with their bank performance or the reputation of the bank.

Richard J. Seaman, chief financial officer of Rockland Trust in Rockland, Mass., had a similarly softer approach.

He also has a unique idea at the end of his response:

"It is not the responsibility of management to ensure compliance with `thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's spouse' (politically correct version).

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