Addicted to Sex A PRIMAL PROBLEM EMERGES FROM THE SHADOWS IN A NEW--AND DANGEROUS--CORPORATE ENVIRONMENT.
(FORTUNE Magazine) – "Most of my patients are CEOs or doctors or attorneys or priests," says Patrick J. Carnes. "They are people with a great deal of power. We have corporate America's leadership marching through here, and they're paying cash because they don't want anybody to know."
Carnes works at a treatment center called the Meadows, an unassuming little oasis of forbearance tucked among the saguaro cactus and sage in Wickenburg, Ariz. His title is clinical director of sexual disorder services, and he is widely considered the nation's leading expert on what has come to be called, for lack of a better term, sex addiction. He says he treated four FORTUNE 500 chief executives last year.
Not far from the Meadows, in the southern part of the state, is another addiction treatment facility called Sierra Tucson. Six months ago it formalized the work it had been doing with sex addicts into an intensive recovery program. Demand has been strong enough to warrant a waiting list, even at an average cost of $850 a day for inpatient treatment that typically lasts 26 days.
If that price seems a little steep, there are suddenly lots of alternatives for a person seeking "The Cure." No fewer than five 12-step programs for sex addicts are now operating free of charge in cities and towns across the country. The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity says it gets about 50 e-mails and 30 to 40 phone calls each week from people seeking help for themselves or for a loved one. It has a list of roughly 100 therapists who have experience with sex addiction and says it is adding new names to that list at a rate of about six a week. The Employee Assistance Professionals Association, whose members are often on a company's frontline when an employee has an addiction problem, is offering a workshop on cybersex addiction at its annual conference in October. "It is definitely on our radar screen," a spokeswoman for the association says. "Our folks are becoming more aware of the fact that sex addiction is prevalent. They are anticipating they could really help people if they were able to bring this up and do a better job of recognizing the symptoms."
As the Bill and Monica drama has shown, sex addiction is not necessarily what you thought it was. It is often not about the pervert, the exhibitionist, or the pornographer, although it can be. It is about your neighbor down the street who turns out to be, as everybody learns during the divorce, a hopeless womanizer. It's about that sales associate with the slinky dresses and flirty smile who can't seem to behave herself when she's on the road. It's about the CEO and his "woman problem." It's about a guy I'll call Mac Henry, who spent most of his career in the chemical industry and is now chief executive of his own small technology company in Phoenix. "I had sex with hundreds and hundreds of women I met in travels and business. Some numerous times, some one time, some whenever I was in town," he says. "I believe you will find a lot of people out there like me. Executives are usually driven, power hungry, and egomaniacs. Hard drinking and women are often part of our story."
So, you ask, what's new? After all, we're well aware of the sexual exploits of athletes and entertainers. The dalliances of public servants were well chronicled way back in the 1970s by Sam Janus, Barbara Bess, and Carol Saltus, who embarked on a study of prostitutes and ended up writing a book instead about their best clients: politicians. It was called A Sexual Profile of Men in Power. Surely this kind of stuff also goes on in the executive suite. And anyway, there's fierce controversy over whether hypersexuality can even be called an addiction. The American Psychiatric Association says no, an addiction must be a physiological dependence on chemical substances like drugs or alcohol. What looks like sex addiction is more likely behavior symptomatic of something else, such as an anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or manic depression, says Chester Schmidt, a psychiatry professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and head of the APA work group on sexual disorders for the latest edition of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the APA's bible of mental problems. Calling it sex addiction, he says, amounts to pop psychology--although he bets the association will "take another look at this area" in its next revision of the DSM.
But of course there is something new: a seismic shift in social context. Just consider the old clinical labels for this kind of behavior. In women it was nymphomania; in men, Don Juanism. "Ten or 20 years ago you might have had a doctor whose hand wandered, but he was a good doctor, a fine upstanding citizen, a churchgoer, so nobody called him on it," says Al Cooper, clinical director of the San Jose Marital and Sexuality Centre and head trainer at Stanford University's counseling center. These days harassment lawsuits make it very dangerous for companies to allow a sex addict to be a boss.
In the new legal (and, let's face it, political) climate, sex addiction has come out of the closet, much as alcoholism has in recent decades. For much of this century, everybody thought the alcoholic was the bum on the park bench; in the '70s and '80s it dawned on people that he was also the guy having three-martini lunches at the private club. Now lunchtime martinis are frowned upon, but circumstances are just right for sex addiction to flourish. Take a group of baby-boomer men and women (yes, women) who came of age during the sexual revolution. Put them into the anxiety-producing pressure cooker of today's work environment. Ratchet up the pressure to produce. Take away time to nurture real family relationships. Give easy access to cybersex, phone sex, prostitutes. Abracadabra: If a person is so inclined, he can fill his addictive need and 15 minutes later be back for a meeting. No hangover. "What other addiction is like it?" asks James Cassidy, who runs an addiction treatment center in Palm Beach, Fla.
Carnes estimates that 6% of the population has this problem. Cooper believes the percentage of men in our society who are sexually compulsive is between 4% and 6%. It is tough to know whether that percentage is increasing, but Carnes and Cooper suspect it is. At the San Jose clinic, Cooper says, "the fastest-growing group is successful professionals. Society is becoming increasingly sexualized. Hard to imagine, but it is. You see things in the paper, more sexual programs in prime time, more advertising. It gives people the impression that sex is the answer." Adds Nancy Friday, author of numerous books, including My Secret Garden and Women on Top, both about women's sexual fantasies: "All the songs...the media...are telling you to try it again. Everybody's doing it. Everybody's got it but you." This has fueled great confusion about sex, she says. "For a lot of people, sex has become a substitute for love, for caring, for being truly wanted."
Then, of course, there is the Internet, which brings porn right into your study or office. It's free. It's convenient. You probably won't get caught (which is important, since fear is a powerful impulse control for a lot of people). You definitely won't get AIDS. Want to see? Just close your office door and, for starters, type in Persian Kitty...
Now a lot of people can handle that. But others can't. They tend to be people with a genetic or psychological predisposition to addictive or compulsive behavior. Trauma, which can include sexual or emotional abuse, and the work environment may also play a role. These people can end up compulsive gamblers, heavy drinkers, compulsive exercisers, type-A workaholics. Often they are more than one of the above. When they address one problem, another pops up. "It's a little like a jack-in-the box," says Carole deLucia, a New York psychotherapist and employee-assistance consultant.
In extreme cases these behaviors look a lot like addictions. In some people, enthusiastic sex becomes excessive sex becomes compulsive sex--and a sex addict can't stop despite truly grave consequences. A 42-year-old television producer in the Dallas area says he nearly sabotaged his career three years ago when he began using the Internet. Until then he'd mostly buy girlie magazines, throw them away, and see how long he could go (usually two weeks) before buying more. But when he began to surf porn sites on the Web, it consumed him. Before long he found that instead of working on his documentaries, he was locking the door of his home office (so his wife wouldn't catch him) and spending seven hours of his ten-hour workday downloading porn and compulsively masturbating. "My work was getting very, very stacked up. I lost prestigious jobs because of it," he says. "It was to the point of paralyzing my business." He is now in recovery with Sex Addicts Anonymous.
When Dr. Carnes surveyed 1,000 sex addicts a decade ago (180 of them women), 80% said they'd become less productive at their jobs, often because they were pursuing sex, fantasizing about it on the job, or exhausted from staying up too late doing those things. One of the respondents said he planned his workweek around his affairs.
Where there is sex addiction in the workplace, there is also coverup--which affects lots of people who have to pick up the slack. Louis D. Cox, a New York psychologist, has turned his years of expertise in addiction therapy into a consulting career, advising companies like Sony, AT&T, and American Airlines on how to cope with big egos and compulsive types and have more smoothly running teams. Not infrequently, he says, there is an addict in the midst. "That person will impact the whole system," he says, as others joke about him, cover for him, lie for him, do his work, or get furious at him.
Sex not only can muck up a corporate culture, it can cause a hailstorm of legal problems too. Just look at what happened at Astra USA, now a unit of the London pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. Astra officials and managers engaged in a continuous pattern of sexual harassment of female sales representatives, according to allegations in an EEOC lawsuit filed last year. This included allowing the highest managers in the company to make sexually offensive comments, engage in unwanted touching, and require female sales reps to socialize with them as a condition of employment, according to the allegations. The socializing included propositioning, grabbing, and kissing, according to the EEOC suit.
Astra USA agreed last year to settle that lawsuit for $9.9 million, without admitting any violations of the law. In 1996, Astra USA had fired its CEO, Lars Bildman, after the harassment allegations surfaced. Last year it sued him, charging him with fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and waste of corporate assets and claiming that he both engaged in sexual harassment and tolerated or excused the similar inappropriate conduct of others. Now Bildman and his former employer are locked in a ferocious legal battle. Bildman has denied allegations that he defrauded Astra USA or engaged in misconduct against the company. He has also denied all allegations that he engaged in or condoned a pattern of sexual harassment at Astra. In court papers, he is claiming that Astra breached its employment contract with him. He also alleges, among other things, that Astra tried to discredit him by portraying him as a harasser and hired media consultants to try to destroy his reputation and to bias potential jurors and judges. An Astra spokesman says: "The company views this as an effort by Mr. Bildman to distract attention from his wrongdoing." On yet another legal front, Bildman pleaded guilty to criminal charges of filing false tax returns and is in prison.
The company has been picking up the pieces. Lynn Tetrault, Astra's human resources vice president, says the company has installed new leadership and overhauled its corporate culture. "When it became clear that there was a serious problem, we reacted swiftly," Tetrault says. "If you have a person not behaving the way they should, you have people who will do the same. Or you have people who are inclined to turn their heads. Or you have people who don't like what's going on and who leave."
It's not an easy problem to fix. It's not as easy as transferring a Casanova to a different department--although transferring him to a different continent might solve the problem for a while. That's how the FORTUNE 500 have frequently handled these kinds of problems in the past. It's not as easy as sitting the offender down and telling him to clean up his act. In some cases you're dealing with somebody who wants to stop but can't; in other cases you're dealing with somebody who doesn't see that he has a problem.
Consider the story of the Phoenix executive Mac Henry. He grew up in an upper-middle-class family, the charming and hard-partying son of a FORTUNE 500 food-company executive. You know the type--athletic, popular, seductive, oh-so-much fun at a party. He bounced around several colleges without getting a degree and landed a job at a small chemical company. The business was great sport, a great place for his boundless energy, and he had a knack for it. By the age of 26 he had a job at Occidental Petroleum that put him in charge of operations in Ramsey, N.J., and also in Santa Ana, Calif. He would fly first class and ride in limos, all on an unlimited expense account--pretty intoxicating stuff for a young man prone to extremes. "The business world just facilitated my bad habits," he says. Later, as his jobs entailed more globetrotting, it was nothing to him to work a 14- or 16-hour day, fly to Singapore, fly to Europe, sleep several hours, do it over again, and end the day by drinking and picking up women. He'd been married at 18 and had two young children back in California at the time, but family was something you did on Sunday mornings. On the road, as he was about half the time, he had an endless stream of pretty women--attorneys' wives he'd meet on airplanes, a Merrill Lynch investment banker he met at a cocktail party, a sales manager for Union Carbide who sat next to him on the rental-car shuttle in a snowstorm in Cleveland. After he found out they were staying in the same hotel, he tipped the hotel clerk to get adjoining rooms. "I took her to dinner and spent the night with her. Can you imagine?" he asks. "She'd been married just two years."
Sometimes he had prostitutes. "Any hotel in the world, the bellman or the limo driver will tell you how and when and what. A limo driver picks you up at J.F.K., and all you need to say is, 'I'm in town for a week. I'm looking for beautiful women.' And you slip him a fifty," he says, and he'll either slip you back a list of numbers or have somebody call. But most of the time Henry preferred to court women on his own. The chase gave him a high he likens to a runner's endorphin rush. "It was like clinching the big order, cutting the big deal," he says.
But lest you think this is just a Y-chromosome thing, consider the story of one Tucson small-business owner who started sleeping around in high school after she was forced into sex on a date at age 14. "I was a young lady with low self-esteem and all the things guys wanted at that age. Cute, charming, big breasts, whatever," she says. For her, too, sex became a power trip. She loved foreign men, and she would fly to exotic places to meet them. She also loved blue-collar workers. And she was so into objectifying men that she once rear-ended another car while ogling some construction workers. "I kind of felt like I had a male ego. I saw myself as the aggressor. It's a big power-lust game," she says.
This didn't help her business. Sometimes she would ruin professional relationships with businessmen by sleeping with them. For a time, she says, "one of my employees was robbing me blind. I should have known. But he was cute; he had charmed me." Even worse, she found herself seeking out lovers "who were not safe to be with." The more dangerous the sexual experience, the bigger the thrill. She finally ended up in a long-term relationship with a man she believes was a sociopath; she is convinced she'd be dead by now had she not eventually joined Sex Addicts Anonymous.
For Mac Henry the sex was all just part of his professional persona. "I was aggressive and successful. I never dreamed I had a problem," he says. And it was all part of the culture. Early on, on the lower rungs of the corporate ladder, "we did a lot of entertaining at strip joints. You'd use your American Express card--all those places took them, even the escort services. They all had legitimate-sounding names." An executive at one of his early jobs remarks that Henry was the "hardest-drinking womanizer" he'd ever met. It was a compliment. "There are a lot of people who can walk that fine line," Henry says.
But those who go over the line usually end up in trouble or in treatment, often both. It's not a pretty journey. Two men sought help at Al Cooper's San Jose clinic recently because of harassment lawsuits. One was being sued for the second time; the other had lost his job. The head of a West Coast hospital also called. He told Cooper he was worried that three of the hospital's doctors were sexually compulsive. He wanted advice on how to intervene.
Yes, there are such things as corporate interventions for sex addicts. Usually the offender is summoned under some pretext to a conference room. There he finds the CEO or another top executive, the general counsel, a human resources executive, and one of the new breed of therapists specializing in this kind of thing. Frequently nothing is said about the employee's sex life, which often is all tangled up with drugs or alcohol. The people in the room may not even know exactly what the underlying problem is. But they know about prolonged absences from work, unfinished tasks, embarrassing behavior. All this has been documented, and the evidence is presented to the employee. He is encouraged, if he wants to keep his job, to meet privately for a psychological evaluation with a guy like Vincent Casolaro, who used to be co-director of employee assistance for Pan Am and now does corporate interventions for a number of FORTUNE 500 companies. Typically, says Casolaro, by the time a case reaches him, "the person is at the end."
Which is how an executive might end up at the Meadows or Sierra Tucson, where treatment often includes therapy to change thought processes and behaviors, role playing, 12-step meetings, and sometimes medication. Both centers say that about one-third of their patients are receiving treatment for sex addiction. Some are gay; most are not. Sierra Tucson estimates that about 80% of those patients are corporate or professional. The Meadows puts that figure at more like 70%.
The Meadows, run by retired Air Force Lt. Col. Pat Mellody, is strictly no-nonsense--an austere little retrofitted dude ranch with a tiny, unheated swimming pool. It has 70 beds, of which about 55 were filled on average last quarter. The typical stay is four to five weeks, at $900 to $1,000 a day--which more than half the time isn't covered by insurance. Here, pleasure reading is usually prohibited; phone calls are limited to five or ten minutes. The only vice allowed is smoking (in "his" and "her" smoking pits to discourage fraternization).
At the Meadows, after extensive medical and psychiatric evaluations, you are grouped with other sex addicts and subjected to a regime that can be both grueling and gruesome. You spend a week in a therapy boot camp called Survivors, picking through your early life for trauma, abuse, neglect, and anything else that might have contributed to your problems. You write an autobiography, detailing all your transgressions and their repercussions, to "get in touch with all the havoc you've caused in other peoples' lives," says Mellody. You get lectures (several hours a day), 12-step meetings (almost nightly), and group therapy (three hours a day) with the likes of Maureen Canning, who had three CEOs in one of her groups in December. "A very high-functioning group," she says. And just how does one conduct therapy with a CEO? "It's like doing a dance. You're looking for a way in, the point that hurts the most," she says. "Then you go for the jugular."
Sierra Tucson is much more resortlike. Everything here has a pretty name. The two dormitories are called Morning Star and Crescent Moon. The medical assessment and detox unit is referred to as Desert Flower, so as not to seem threatening. This place, too, has lots of lectures and lots of therapy, but it takes a holistic approach to treatment that may include horseback riding, massage, or "body nourishment activities" at the recreation center (although this is often locked so that compulsive exercisers can't sneak in to pump iron). It has a much better lap pool. Sierra Tucson has 63 beds and a waiting list.
An important part of the treatment at both places is family week, during which some assortment of spouses, ex-spouses, kids, in-laws, mistresses, and girlfriends gathers to help the addict get even clearer about his problems. That's actually how Mac Henry ended up at Sierra Tucson: not on his own account but because he'd been summoned to attend family week for a family member in treatment for depression and addiction to prescription drugs. Now, family week, as you can imagine, is a solemn affair, and the visiting relatives are asked to take it seriously, forgoing television and newspapers to really focus on the matter at hand. Henry arrived at his relative's family week on a Tuesday with his girlfriend in tow and his golf clubs in the car. He'd gotten a suite at the El Conquistador, a resort and country club in Tucson. "I thought I was on vacation," he says. By Friday, it dawned on him that he, too, might have a problem.
He had not, in fact, been able to walk that fine line. He had gone into business on his own, and his technology company had done well, growing to about $3 million in revenues in 1995, but his drinking and carousing had continued, and he'd gotten more reckless. His wife had filed for divorce; his daughter had made it clear that he was no longer welcome to visit his grandchildren. His son had joined the family business and was put in charge during Henry's increasingly long absences overseas. But with Henry's neglect, the business started to falter. By the time he arrived at Sierra Tucson, his son had gotten fed up and quit, and his credit cards were tapped out. "I was in my own business, not in the corporate world where you have people who can cover for your mistakes," he says. "I didn't have anybody left to cover for me."
During his relative's family week he owned up to an alcohol problem. But he was grouped with some sex addicts, including a doctor, an entertainer, and a McDonald's franchisee who had taxied his girlfriends around in his private jet. As Henry was grilled and prodded by Sierra Tucson's counselors, he came to see how intertwined his drinking was with his sex. "For me, they went hand in hand," he says. "I couldn't have one without the other."
This phenomenon is known as cross-addiction, and it has become better understood in recent years. "I see a lot of overlap," says Stephen Pesce, a New York City psychotherapist and interventionist. His experience was mostly in substance abuse and other compulsive behaviors, but he was finding that those problems were so frequently intertwined with sex addiction--more than 50% of the time--that two years ago he recruited a sex therapist to join his practice. His clients include a handful of athletes and trust fund babies but mostly people in advertising and banking and on Wall Street.
Wall Street, Pesce says, is the worst. "The sex down on Wall Street is unbelievable, with the prostitution and the porn. It is huge," he says. People who choose that kind of work tend to be thrill seekers to begin with. They're under excruciating stress for a big part of the day. At the market's close, "when they come out of there, they are so jacked up they don't know what to do with themselves," Pesce says. Since it's Wall Street, there is no shortage of temptations. "I've got guys who are just dying down there. We've been trying to go out and talk to more companies, and educate them about prevention. But Wall Street doesn't want to hear about it," says Pesce. It is still in the dark ages on this issue.
Just check out the corporate culture at Lew Lieberbaum, a small brokerage firm that got into big trouble last year with the EEOC. The firm employed roughly 300 people at offices in Manhattan and on Long Island. It was the Wild West, and we're not just talking about catcalls, lewd comments, or the hiring of "wow girls" on the basis of their looks, according to allegations in a harassment suit filed two years ago by three employees. We're talking about guys who would ask for oral sex, according to that suit, expose themselves, proposition the women, and make remarks like "Wear a bra--your nipples are getting hard," according to allegations by the EEOC.
The EEOC case was settled last year for $1.8 million, without any admission of guilt. The firm closed last August. The private suit is still pending. Mark Lev, the firm's co-founder, is now doing private investment banking for a firm he won't name. He says the allegations against his firm were "misrepresentative and trumped. The allegations against me were categorically false." But he also says "there is some scintilla of truth in some of the allegations. We had 300 employees; 250 were under 30. When that happens, you're going to have intracompany relationships. It's unavoidable." He blames some of the industry's questionable behavior on a young work force and a stressful environment. "Part of the business is volatile," he says. "It causes emotional swings. I've sat at Quotron machines all day and seen the market move, and I've watched the faces of young brokers. They don't know how to react to a bad market. They're frustrated; they're emotional. They don't know how to deal with these volatile things, and they react the way they know how, which is not always appropriate."
Sex addiction and sexual harassment are not the same thing, of course. But it's easy to see how a climate of sexual excess can create a spawning ground for the addict. Take the case of a trader who walked away from Wall Street two years ago. He'd grown up in a New York suburb, the youngest of five children, and had decided after graduating that he wanted to be a paratrooper. "I wanted to jump out of helicopters," he says. But a relative convinced him that he could get the same adrenaline rush and make lots more money by coming to work for him on Wall Street. "The needle went into my arm the minute I walked onto that floor," he says.
He started as a runner at 17 and eventually got his own license. He also got married and had two kids along the way. But most days after the market's close, instead of going home he'd go to massage parlors to find prostitutes. "I did that through my first nine years of marriage. My wife didn't have a clue," he says.
He was never a drinker, but he was definitely a gambler. Over the years he found himself taking bigger and bigger trading risks. "When something went down I'd buy more, because I just couldn't take a loss. I got to the point where I was having really big winning days and really big losing days," he says. But he managed overall to win more than he lost. He was able, despite a prostitute habit that was costing as much as $750 a week, to save enough money to finance his recovery.
It took a lot to get him there, though. For a long time he just didn't think he had a problem. "Many of the guys would see prostitutes," he says. "A lot of them talked about it. Certain guys owned massage parlors. There was a lot of bragging about it." It was only when he began to have a serious affair with an acquaintance that he began feeling guilt about being unfaithful to his wife. The prostitutes hadn't really bothered him; they didn't count. "Now that's denial. That's Clinton," he says. "All sex is not sex." He decided that his new affair was true love, gave up prostitutes, left his wife, and moved in with his paramour. But then he began seeing prostitutes again. "It scared me. I couldn't stop."
The torment finally drove him to check himself into Del Amo Hospital in Torrance, Calif. "I had to convince myself I was going to a resort," he says. "I actually packed my bathing suits." He lasted three weeks at Del Amo before getting kicked out for fraternizing with his girlfriend during family week, then spent four months at KeyStone Center, an extended-care facility in Chester, Pa. That was four years ago. He reconciled with his wife, and they moved back in together. He returned to his job on Wall Street for a while. "It was like standing at a roulette table. I knew eventually they'd carry me away on a stretcher," he says. Two years ago he quit, which was tough for a guy with a family to support and no college degree. Since then he has been doing consulting and lots of therapy.
Is Wall Street all that different from other industries? Probably. It is one of those industries, like music or movies, where you're supposed to be outrageous and excessive. When it comes to sexual misbehavior, "it's not just across companies but across industries where you see patterns," says Jill Kanin-Lovers, human resources senior vice president at Avon Products. She has a basis of comparison, having had top-level human resources jobs at IBM, American Express, and Towers Perrin before joining Avon. "It tends to be more in male-dominated fields, where you're dealing with the dealmakers and pretty strong egos and people who feel they are above it all. Sometimes that translates into naughty behaviors."
Female sex addicts are different. But for all sorts of complicated cultural reasons, their problems are even less talked about and more poorly understood than men's. "Women can cover it up a lot better than men," says the Tucson small-business owner. "There really still are those archetypes of women: the goddess, the mother, the whore. We are supposed to be so virtuous, we don't do those sorts of things," she says.
Women may manifest their addiction differently too. They may choose to become barmaids or exotic dancers. They may have serial extramarital affairs. Many may be less addicted to the sex itself than to the fantasy that goes along with it, says Carol Ross, a counselor at Sierra Tucson. In some research she did with women sex addicts, she says, a conversation with an attractive man could lead to compulsive thinking: "'Wow, maybe we'll go out. What would it be like living together? What would it be like having my first name, his last name? What would our children look like?' She's created this whole fantasy relationship in an hour."
Different companies have very different standards for what's considered inappropriate. "We had a very senior salesperson who was a very bad actor" at IBM, recalls Kanin-Lovers. "He was one of our best producers, but we fired him. There was no way we could allow him to go unpunished." Still, she says, "I grant you, you can go to other companies that will turn a blind eye if the guy is delivering results. You have companies that will say, 'We care No. 1 about results, so we'll ignore these problems.'"
That might have been the case with Robert Hammer, the former Minneapolis-based manager for headhunting firm Management Recruiters International, according to two lawyers involved in litigation against the firm. "Hammer was a phenomenally successful sales manager, one of their most profitable. Great at bringing in recruiters, very personable," says Lloyd Zimmerman, senior trial attorney on the case for the EEOC. "He fancied himself a ladies' man. It was well known he was a lech. New employees would be warned about him. If he did something wrong, people would say, 'That's Bob.' " In a private suit against Hammer and MRI, one of his account executives accused him of grabbing her posterior, trying to kiss her, and saying all kinds of nasty things. "I think there was an economic benefit in not getting rid of him. He was a producer," says Donald Brown, attorney for the Minneapolis firm Winthrop & Weinstine, which handled that lawsuit. The company won't comment on what went on at the time. Hammer was fired, and two years ago MRI settled the EEOC suit for $1.3 million, denied any wrongdoing, agreed never to rehire Hammer, and sent a letter of apology to the 17 women who had worked for him.
George Antrim III, Hammer's attorney, says Hammer denied the allegations during arbitration in the private lawsuit. "From my perspective, I believed him," Antrim says. He disagrees with characterizations of Hammer as a lecher. "You could talk to a lot of women who worked for Bob who'd also disagree with that. He's a strong personality. People have strong feelings about him. If you talked to 100 people, half would love him, half would hate him."
Some guys never get into trouble at work. Mac Henry was one of those. He had a couple of affairs with colleagues, but those were consensual. He broke them off without much trouble. Now he sits in the sunny corner office of the business that he nearly ran into the ground, with pictures of his children and grandchildren on his bookshelf. He left Sierra Tucson 4 1/2 years ago and hasn't had a drink since. He's had one girlfriend for most of that time and says he hasn't cheated on her. He has a new set of golfing buddies, five other Phoenix movers and shakers who are also recovering from various addictions (two others had problems with sex addiction). "We don't do booze, and we don't do women," he says. He spent last Christmas with his entire family. He has taken his crazy, compulsive, type-A behavior and he has thrown himself into work. He has built his business back up to $6 million in sales. It got a clean rating from Dun & Bradstreet last fall. "Am I a workaholic now? Damned straight," he says. "I just took a lot of my energy, and I moved it over here. It's a lot safer."
Recently, Mac Henry sent out a memo to his staff, informing them that their computers were company property and that their Internet downloads would be subject to inspection by management without notice. Why did he do it? Because he'd noticed that some of his employees had been downloading the porn sites. One of them had been traveling with him on a plane, and when he turned on his laptop a picture of a nude woman popped up. "If they want to look at porno stuff, that's their business," he said. But not in his shop and not on his time. "I'm not going to enable them," he says.
Increasingly the more enlightened companies are taking this approach too. It is no longer okay to have wandering hands, no matter how good you are at your job. Hard drinking and womanizing no longer equate to "tough boss, good at taking risks." Sex addiction is no longer an executive-suite perk; it's bad for business. That may not be one of the 12 steps, but it's a step in the right direction.
REPORTER ASSOCIATE Eileen P. Gunn RESEARCHER Patricia Neering