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AT EVERY TURN

A flowchart for founders (or anyone else) trying to pursue an office romance

Billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft's co-founder Bill Gates speaks to the media in Manhattan
Reuters/Mike Segar
Bill Gates.
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Bill Gates is the latest in a long line of business titans to be accused of inappropriate behavior at the office.

A spokesperson for the tech founder has acknowledged that a married Gates was involved in an office romance at Microsoft, telling the Wall Street Journal there “was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably.” There have since been other reports about the multibillionaire’s behavior toward women, including allegations that he “pursued women who worked for him at Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” as the New York Times put it.

There is no evidence that Gates, who met his soon-to-be-ex-wife at Microsoft, pressured anyone to engage in relationships at the expense of their careers, and the Times notes that he seemed to give alleged targets of his come-ons room to turn him down. “If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened,” Gates wrote via email to a woman he expressed interest in, the Times reports.

But giving an underling space to say no does not give a founder, owner, manager, or anyone else in a position of authority a free pass to proposition people at the office. Still confused? Consult this flowchart.

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