In the wake of the Matt Lauer scandal at NBC News, the peacock network has rolled out a new set of standards and guidelines for employee conduct.
Page Six at the New York Post has the scoop with an insider laying out some of the more ridiculous guidelines that sound more like a Catholic school dance rather than a major media organization in the 21st century:
“Plus, there’s been a series of ridiculous rules issued on other office conduct. One rule relates to hugging. If you wish to hug a colleague, you have to do a quick hug, then an immediate release, and step away to avoid body contact. “Also there’s strict rules about socializing, including [not] sharing taxis home and [not] taking vegans to steakhouses.”
Leave it to the network that delivered the high-minded moral clarity of Keith Olbermann on a nightly basis to equate “taking a vegan to a steakhouse” with Matt Lauer’s “rape button.”
As fun as it may be to poke fun at the image of NBC News executives patrolling the halls of 30 Rock like a nun with a ruler in her hand monitoring the length of workplace hugs, (and the Internet has had its share of fun with it) there’s another aspect of the policy that deserves some attention.
A source says, “Romantic relationships at work are not exactly unusual, but now NBC says it is taking a zero-tolerance approach. Staffers have been told that if they find out about any affairs, romances, inappropriate relationships or behavior in the office, they have to report it to human resources, their superior or the company anti-harassment phone line. Staffers are shocked that they are now expected to snitch on their friends.”
So every NBC employee is deputized as a relationship spy? Do they get a badge? How does “zero-tolerance” for work relationships work, exactly? And what about NBC’s famous, high-profile power couple Joe Scarborough and Mika (soon-to-be-Scarborough) Brzezinski?
The hosts of the Manhattan and Beltway popular Morning Joe on MSNBC are the George Burns and Gracie Allen of political media but their courtship and coupling hardly fits the 1950s, separate bed sitcom formula.
They were married co-workers. One could argue that since Scarborough’s name was on the show they co-hosted, he had a position of professional superiority over his co-host. He was the alpha in the workplace and she was the not-exactly-equal sidekick.
He gets divorced. Then… a bit later, she gets divorced. Finally, again thanks to Page Six, they are a couple and insiders basically concede that everyone knew what was going on:
An NBC insider told us, “Everybody at 30 Rock knows they are a couple . . . They are constantly together, they arrive and leave events together, even on weekends. They are each other’s publicists and finish each other’s sentences. It’s the worst-kept secret in TV.”
But what if it hadn’t ended happily ever after? What if Joe’s flirtation with his colleague (a married colleague) had not been welcomed? How is Joe to know? This relationship could have ended in disaster with two of the network’s high-profile and bankable stars exposed in a scandal.
None of this is to take away from the blissful happiness Joe and Mika are now enjoying. God bless them, they deserve each other and all the bliss they now enjoy.
The point is, how is an NBC employee supposed to know the difference between an inappropriate workplace relationship and the true love, fairy tale relationship enjoyed by the net’s big stars?
At what point did Joe and Mika’s workplace interactions morph from behavior that would not be tolerated now by NBC and into a feel-good love story between two big stars the network wouldn’t dare get on the wrong side of? If their obvious workplace courtship took place today, would an executive step in and call a halt?
How is true love (like Joe and Mika’s) expected to blossom with NBC’s flirt police on patrol?
Is there really such a lack of clarity and wisdom in the halls of NBC that they lump together sharing taxis, hugging colleagues and taking vegans to steakhouses with Matt Lauer’s predatory sex toy collection?
Considering they still take the Russian Dossier seriously, the question, apparently, answers itself.
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