Herman Cain and the Annoying Problem of Honor

I had an interesting conversation with my wife this morning. This, in and of itself, is nothing new. The topic, however, was.

We were discussing the latest in a string of allegations focused upon the interaction between GOP presidential candidate, Herman Cain, and various women with whom he had become acquainted. Some had accused him of sexual harassment. The most recent person to come forward, however, told a story of an alleged extra-marital affair spanning some 13 years.

In response to this story, Cain’s attorney dismissed the inquiry as irrelevant, saying:


The question presented was whether Mr. Cain’s attorney was right. Whether the fact that someone may or may not make a lousy spouse had any rightful bearing on whether that person would make a good President. In other words, can one compartmentalize the two? Does honor matter?

It struck me that business owners face this question all the time…and nowhere more often than in the realm of social media. Does it matter what an employee says or does on his or her own time, provided that: (1) no laws are broken; and (2) the company and its management are not disparaged?

Whether the issue in question is pirated cable, a narrowly averted stop for driving while impaired, or just bad social judgment, does a business have a right to look behind the doors guarding someone’s private life, even if those doors have been left unlocked and ajar?

There are, without doubt, reasonable arguments on both sides. This is, after all, an issue on which intelligent people can and do disagree. But the question remains, and it is a nagging one: Does honor matter or, more to the point, does it always matter everywhere equally?

The purpose of this column is not to answer those questions, even if I were qualified to do so. I raise the subject, however, because it is something that cries out for discussion and direction from business owners before they are involuntarily confronted with it.

I’d be interested to know your comments.

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