The Try Guys make us reflect on coercion and consent in workplace extramarital affairs

It’s been a week since news of Ned Fulmer’s affair with an employee broke out and the subsequent announcement of his exit from The Try Guys. As promised, The Try Guys—now a trio consisting of Keith Habersberger, Zach Kornfeld, and Eugene Lee Yang—have finally released an official video statement today, Oct. 4. Fury, sadness, and disappointment are evident on their faces as they try to overcome this nightmare with dignity.

Kornfeld began the video titled “what happened.” by stating their intent to provide viewers with a timeline of what has transpired and some transparency into their decision. Habersberger then shared that after fans reached out to them on Labor Day weekend (that’s around Sept. 5 for non-Americans like us) about allegedly seeing Fulmer and an employee engaging in “public romantic behavior,” they immediately reached out to the said employee. And when Fulmer confessed that the affair had been going on for some time, the team was shocked.

Yang then spoke about engaging with “employment lawyers, corporate lawyers, HR, PR, and more” during the three-week internal review since they were “acutely aware of just how contrary this was to the values of the company we’ve built and those of everyone who works here.”

It is important to note that, at that time, the former quartet were all executive producers and partners at 2nd Try, LLC. While we’re not privy to the company’s written corporate policies on workplace extramarital affairs, it’s refreshing to see leaders like The Try Guys publicly denounce this type of behavior and say, “We refused to sweep things under the rug. That is not who we are. It’s not what we stand for.”

“Despite incurring losses, Fulmer’s dismissal and The Try Guys’ determined stance to remove his appearance in future releases are proof that the trio definitely knows how to walk the talk.” How big were the losses? As fans noted, Fulmer might have even fumbled their bag with The Food Network. The network’s TV schedule shows that the newly-released series “No-Recipe Road Trip” has been bumped from its Wednesday night primetime schedule to Friday morning, affecting the possibility of a second season as well.

Despite the deep hurt they continue to feel, the trio reminded folk that “there’s also a family at the center of this” and politely requested everyone to respect the privacy of family members and employees. Yang also asked that people exercise kindness because of the tendency of public opinion to be harsher towards women than men.

Although The Try Guys didn’t fully discuss the details for legal reasons, their statement and conduct of internal review seems to show an awareness of the abuse of power inherent in workplace extramarital affairs, especially those involving a married male boss. The instinct to protect an employee and to uphold humane company values is what we want to see from leaders.

As one lawsuit involving a workplace affair says about its nature, “More often, the results of such an encounter leads to what has occurred in this case: misunderstood motives, unnecessary fear of reprisal and, most harmful of all, the exercise of power and dominance by a male supervisor over the future employment opportunities of a female employee.”

Consent is a complex issue in relationships where one party wields power over another’s career. As Harper Bazaar lays out in a story, “After recently interviewing several women who accused powerful men of harassment, I found that in each instance, the men had also engaged in ‘consensual’ sexual relationships with other women who worked for or with them, and were decades their junior.

In at least two of these situations, when the young women wanted to end things they were fearful of the repercussions. That these relationships were shrouded in secrecy made the young women more vulnerable to coercion and more difficult for them to seek help from friends and advisors.”

Being on this footing doesn’t necessarily strip an employee of their ability to give consent nor does it deny people meaningful connections in the workplace. It merely acknowledges the long history of workplace harassment and challenges companies to come up with solutions to keep employees from such harm. In fact, some companies have issued policies on things like asking fellow single co-workers out.

And it’s not just the employee involved that gets affected, it can disrupt the entire workplace, too. Employment attorney Chris W. McCarty describes how this often happens, “Everyone at work knows the married executive’s wife—they’ve socialized with her for years and she comes into the office often—and now people feel uncomfortable and guilty when they see her. They’re also losing respect for the married executive, who can sense the disapproval and starts retaliating with poor performance reviews for those he believes are critical of the affair.”

We hope that The Try Guys team can bounce back from this. They deserve it.

 

Photo screencapped from The Try Guys video

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Amrie Cruz: Amrie is a nonbinary writer who likes to talk about politics, K-pop, and frogs. They have a dog daughter named Cassie who doesn’t go to school.