Today's executives and managers are taught not to discriminate on the basis of an employee's culture, religion, gender or sexual orientation. We understand that inappropriate behavior — from sexual harassment to discrimination — cannot be tolerated in today's workplace and so we are careful to avoid such actions. Some companies, like Uber, have learned the consequences of such behaviors.
Then there's Badoo.
Badoo is a popular dating app, Bloomberg reports. But as popular as it is (the company has more than 60 million users in Russia and Latin America), it's not as well known in London, where its headquarters are located. Like other young tech companies, Badoo is challenged to draw top-quality people in a tight labor market and oftentimes finds itself pitted against giants like Google and Facebook. So what to do? Why not set yourself apart by throwing lavish, wild parties that feature half-naked women dressed as mermaids, bikini-clad women dancing on a stripper pole and almost-naked models that serve as sushi platters? Who wouldn't want to work there?
The investment isn't trivial. The company employs two full-time event management staffers and a contingent of external planners, including one that specializes in circus and cabaret shows. The cost? About $25,000 to $45,000 for each party, and the company was doing one a week at least through the end of 2015 until the pace slowed down to monthly.
Isn't this a lawsuit waiting to happen? "It's certainly misguided and inappropriate," says one employment lawyer in the Bloomberg piece.
Although some employees have complained about the company's "regularly sexualized office culture," Badoo's CEO, Andrey Andreev, isn't as concerned. He said he hasn't received any "serious" or "official" complaints and that the parties are "meant to reward staffers, many of whom are young Russians living away from home for the first time," with themes chosen by the company's employees — both male and female. The company also has family-friendly parties where, presumably, sushi is served on plates.
The big question is whether this strategy is working. It's tough to tell because the 400-person company isn't publicly traded and doesn't share a lot of data with outsiders. But Andreev says Badoo is profitable and, according to the Bloomberg report, it's U.K. subsidiary made an operating profit of £304,000 in 2015.
California roll, anyone?
A version of this column originally appeared on Inc.com.