Best Buy was in the news recently as it announced a $1.7 billion quarterly loss, along with layoffs and the closure of 50 of its 1100 stores. \u00a0And then came the news that Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn had resigned upon mutual agreement. \u00a0If you weren't listening carefully, you might have assumed the usual story: \u00a0poor financial results led to his forced resignation. In fact, that isn't the reason (at least not the main reason) he is gone. \u00a0The Board revealed that it was\u00a0investigating an alleged inappropriate relationship Dunn had with a 29-year-old female subordinate. \u00a0The Board's action involves claims that company assets were misused in that relationship -- whatever that means. \u00a0 It's not clear how much money or assets are involved -- whether it was a case of buying her gifts and padding the expense account, or paying her an exhorbitant salary she wouldn't otherwise have merited, or something else. Oh, did I forget to say Dunn is married? \u00a0Well he is, although he certainly wouldn't be the first CEO who has had an affair -- and with a subordinate. But affairs with subordinates are tricky situations. \u00a0You might be tempted to think that in the 21st century, a relationship is a personal matter. \u00a0However, every relationship between a manager and a subordinate is the company's business, to a degree. Why Workplace Relationships Become the Company's Business First,\u00a0workplace relationships between manager and subordinate can open up a company to a claim of sexual\u00a0harassment. \u00a0A relationship may well start out consensual (at least consensual in the CEO's or manager's eyes). \u00a0But if the subordinate has second thoughts later or the relationship sours, it may lead to a claim of harassment. \u00a0It is not uncommon for so-called consensual arrangements to end in sexual harassment claims. Second, how other employees see things is often very different from the way the parties involved in the relationship see it. \u00a0A\u00a0relationship at the CEO level with a subordinate often sets off a ripple effect of\u00a0suspicions\u00a0of favoritism, poor morale and churn -- especially when a company is under fiscal stress like Best Buy. \u00a0The CEO is a very\u00a0visible\u00a0person. \u00a0All eyes are on him or her. \u00a0Employees and the Board lose confidence, secretly thinking "no wonder the company is going down the tubes and layoffs are imminent -- your brain is somewhere else, Mr. CEO, and not on the company." \u00a0 Jealous co-workers or those on the outs with the CEO will be eager to rat out the CEO to the CEO's boss, the Board. That's why publicly-traded companies take such allegations so seriously. \u00a0The whole situation is fraught with issues. \u00a0They may have no choice but to launch a major investigation,\u00a0sometimes\u00a0using outside law firms \u00a0-- even if neither party in the relationship is complaining. In Best Buy's case, that relationship has had an impact well beyond two people. \u00a0Now it means more stress on a company already reeling. \u00a0Instead of focusing on fixing its business model, the company will be spending the next six months to a year recruiting a new CEO. For Dunn, it will impact his and his family's financial situation. Leaving a publicly traded company at age 51 as opposed to making it to retirement age, could be a loss of "hundreds of millions of dollars" according to commentator TJ Walker on Forbes. \u00a0And it's not clear the impact on the subordinate, but I can tell you from past experience as Vice President of HR in the corporate world, at the very least it may put a cloud on her career, even if the company does not take adverse action against her. Workplace Relationship Lessons for Small Businesses So what does all this have to do with small businesses? \u00a0There are a few lessons. \u00a0A small business owner may not have to worry about a Board of Directors swooping in and forcing a resignation. \u00a0But consider the churn that may be going on under the surface. \u00a0It's incredibly hard to keep a relationship a secret for long in the workplace. And it's not just the owner's relationships I am talking about. \u00a0Any manager who has a workplace relationship with a subordinate can put the company at risk, opening it up to a harassment claim that would be expensive to defend, or might cause the business to go under. \u00a0Most small businesses do not have insurance to cover such claims, or are underinsured, according to Bolt Insurance Agency. Small business workplaces tend to be filled with people who have relationships. \u00a0It may be a family business. \u00a0And in small businesses it tends to be natural to hire people with whom you have\u00a0relationships. What can you do? Make sure managers know what sexual harassment is so they can avoid leaving themselves and the company open to a claim. \u00a0Keep your eyes open to budding relationships. \u00a0Take steps to take important decisions about the subordinate (such as pay raises) out of the hands of the manager, or when possible transfer the employee to another supervisor -- yet stay\u00a0fair\u00a0to both parties. \u00a0In a small workplace it may be tough to take such steps, but you need to protect the business. The Best Buy situation is a reminder that workplace relationships are full of issues that go well beyond the two people\u00a0in\u00a0a relationship.