But this idea that it doesn’t look right for a male boss to be alone with a female employee sounds like it comes straight out of Victorian England. And it’s probably just an excuse.I don't think it's an excuse at all. I think "it wouldn't look right" means that some people might think that something sexual is going on, and the point is to dispel any possibility of people coming to that conclusion. It's not just that you might harass someone sexually, it's that the two of you might be doing something perfectly consensual that violates your wedding vows or even just the spirit of the workplace. This was the advice I got from my father decades ago on how to deal with women in the work place: do it in the public eye, so that people come to understand that you never leave yourself room for anything inappropriate.
More likely the congressmen, like the professors I’ve spoken to, don’t want to leave themselves open to claims of sexual harassment and the lawsuits that might result.
Once a sufficient bond of trust or friendship forms, of course, things can change. Still, it's hard to be friends with a superior or someone who reports to you directly, just as it was hard for a king to have friends. So the best thing, if you're dealing with someone who reports to you, might well be to deal with them only with the doors open.