I haven’t been the biggest Strictly Come Dancing fan in my life (I’m more of a Love Island person), but this year I’ve found myself watching bits of it over the last few weeks. As such, my attention couldn’t help but be drawn to the controversy surrounding one of this year’s celebrity contestants who was photographed in a compromising position with his professional dance partner. The crux of the issue being that both parties are in long-term relationships.
I won’t go into details (if you’re curious Google ‘Strictly’ and you will find everything you need, trust me) but one of the most interesting features of this controversy, in my opinion, were the calls for the contestant to be axed from the show in light of his behaviour (he hasn’t been – he lives to dance another day this weekend). Regardless of anyone’s views on the morality of what happened, I can’t help but ask – since when do people get fired from their jobs for transgressions in their personal lives?
Imagine an accountant or solicitor going into work, being called into their manager’s office and promptly being sacked because a picture from a boozy weekend, or some other event unrelated to work but morally questionable, was circulated around the office? What impact does this have on the individual’s ability to perform at work, and what gives your boss the right to play judge and jury on the events of your personal life?
Strictly is a popular TV show, known for being family-friendly and its contestants are usually smiley, inoffensive D-list celebrities who, to quote a podcast I listened to this morning, end up in a panto within a couple of years. So perhaps it’s understandable that BBC executives contemplated terminating the contestant’s contract to maintain this image and make it clear that they do not endorse such scandalous behaviour.
But for most other businesses who aren’t large broadcasting corporations, the goings-on of employees’ personal lives should, in theory, be off limits. You might argue that a person’s moral compass outside of work is indicative of their integrity, trustworthiness or ethics in work and therefore of interest to your manager, or that if an employee is seen conducting themselves improperly outside of work it reflects poorly on the organisation. It may be a grey area, but if an employee is doing their job, and doing it well – who is anyone to care what they get up to of a Friday night?
Disclaimer: criminal activity is a whole other kettle of fish!