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This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
If you’re a CEO looking to keep your job, we’ve got some advice for you: Stop dating your employees. And if you do, don’t try to cover it up.
Last week, Edward Tilly stepped down as the chief executive of derivatives and securities exchange Cboe Global Markets after a board investigation found he failed to disclose personal relationships with colleagues.
He’s hardly the first top man in charge to get in trouble — and lose a job — over this sort of discovery.
“You are seeing boards say there is no excuse in the world,” Johnny C. Taylor Jr., CEO of Society for HR Management, told Insider. “You actually knew there was an existing policy and all you had to do is disclose it, that would have solved for it.”
Earlier this month, Bernard Looney resigned as CEO of BP after the company said he failed to disclose personal relationships with employees. Separately, CNN chief Jeff Zucker quit last year after an investigation uncovered an undisclosed, consensual relationship.
“I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t. I was wrong,” Zucker wrote in a statement at the time.
The men join a long list of execs whose workplace relationships have upended their careers.
In 2019, McDonald’s fired its then-CEO Steve Easterbrook over an undisclosed personal relationship with an employee that Easterbrook said was consensual. The company later said it uncovered additional relationships that Easterbrook failed to disclose. (Earlier this year, the SEC barred Easterbrook from serving as a public company executive or director for five years and fined him $400,000 for lying during an internal investigation.)
In 2018, former Intel CEO Brian Krzanich stepped down over what the company said was a “past consensual relationship” with an employee that violated a non-fraternization policy. Lincoln Center’s president Jed Bernstein resigned in 2016 after an investigation found he failed to disclose a relationship with an employee.
Many employees don’t disclose workplace relationships
Workplace relationships — particularly between supervisors and their subordinates — can be problematic, creating power imbalances that can blur lines of consent and the appearance of fairness.
In a January survey conducted by the Society for HR Management, 27% of respondents said they were previously or currently involved in a workplace romance. Of that group, 10% said they have dated their subordinates, while 18% reported dating their superiors.
But only about one in five workers reported disclosing their workplace relationship to their employer.
This underlines the issue that keeps getting chief executives in trouble: lack of disclosure.
Many companies may not outright ban relationships among employees, but instead have policies requiring their disclosure.
Some companies have even relaxed their policies over the last decade surrounding workplace relationships, Taylor said. Companies acknowledge that relationships occur, and if parties disclose and sign the required paperwork, HR is typically understanding.
“Most of the time, purely disclosing it would solve the problem,” Taylor said. “It’s hard to have a disclosure policy and then say to someone, ‘Once you disclose I’m going to fire you.'”
Which begs the question: CEOs, why don’t you just come clean?
One answer may be that these relationships happened a long time ago. The details of CEO-employee relationships are typically not made public, but a number of the executives in question had been at their companies for many years, Taylor said. They may not have considered mentioning an old fling in their disclosures, he said.
So whether it’s a former flame or current relationship, given the recent string of CEO departures, we recommend executives make haste and brush up on their organization’s relationship policies to make sure they aren’t breaking the rules.
None of the executives mentioned in this story replied to requests for comment from Insider.