Spousal hires

I just read an article from the Chronicle about spousal hires:


The idea of spousal hiring makes sense, particularly for institutions in sparsely populated areas.  I like the idea of the employer taking care of employees and valuing their entire exist as human beings.  By hiring a spouse, the university is acknowledging the employee’s family and life outside of work.

It is readily apparent, however, that when two spouses work in the same department drama inevitably ensues.  The divorce rate is 50%.  Flip a coin to detemine whether or not the spousal hire will result in a fractured department.

Amicable separations are possible but seemingly less common.  Of course, quiet divorces may go unnoticed and our perception of the success of spousal hires could thus be biased.  If I were in charge, I would approach spousal hires within the same department with more caution than spousal hires in different departments.  I would not attempt to discern the fate of the relationship (which is none of my business) during a job interview.  That would be ridiculous.  But I think it’s ok to acknowledge that there is risk involved when you hire spouses to work in the same department.  The same goes for allowing two people in a department to start a relationship, whether they are peers or a supervisor and subordinate.  Perhaps you could allow hires in different departments but not within the same department given the risk of interpersonal strife.  But perhaps it would be inappropriate to draw a distinction between the two and treat them differently.

All I can say is that if I were married to a large animal vet, we would not work in the same practice.  But that’s just me.  To each his own.

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