October 2010: HE SAYS, SHE SAYS - Office Romances
Author: Keith Kelson & Jean Wharton | Photographer: Photography by Anne
When it comes to workplace romances, I will always vote nay. I’ve seen how an office romance can disrupt a company. Just like oil and water don’t mix, the same has been said of trying to mix business with pleasure. When you’re at work, just do your job, keep your nose to the grindstone and hit the bricks when it’s five o’clock. You want romance? The local watering hole is where you should be, not the office.
Surveys indicate that up to 43 percent of employees have reported being involved in an office romance at some point in their careers. I say those people are not only reckless, but lazy. You want to socialize and find romance on the job, you need to work at a nightclub as a bartender or bouncer.
I’m well aware that people are spending more and more time on the job. Sometimes, you’re surrounded by smart, good looking people who are all dressed to the nines. However, if you can’t muster up the desire for a social life outside of your workplace, you might need a little more caffeine in your diet. A few cases of Mountain Dew and some over-priced fancy frozen coffee drinks a day should do the trick.
Here’s another consideration. Although some workplace relationships succeed, many don’t. If it tanks, what will your workday be like? Will you be the guy looking over his shoulder waiting for the other Manolo Blahnik to drop? Will you be the woman craning her neck to get a view of your coworker’s new love interest? Don’t let it happen to you, loyal readers. The world is filled with people dying to meet and romance you—no need to look for love in the workplace.
The average workplace romance lasts about as long as the average teenager’s attention span, and in the long run, you and your sweetheart will be better served seeking romance with people you don’t work with. “If you really love me, you’ll resign and get another job” is what I would tell her.
Sure, there are exceptions to the rule. If you’re a man working with a woman who looks like Katherine Heigel or Beyonce who bakes peanut butter chocolate chip cookies for the office and she’s heads over heels for you, I say go for it. Ladies if you see a handsome male coworker pull a deaf couple from Slovenia out of a burning car and he doesn’t stick around to do an interview with the press, go ahead and give him your number. But the reason they’re called exceptions is that it’s very rare to find one of these extraordinary people working alongside of you.
Like I pointed out earlier, people today are lazier and just don’t see the need to keep romance out of the workplace. I’m hoping that the pendulum will swing back to the old way of thinking for all of our sakes. The workplace couple will always be a source of drama, even if they manage to be completely off the radar of the office gossipmongers.
Besides, the company you’re working for may have a policy against office romances and nothing kills a prospective romance more than a visit to human resources. Your company may not have a written policy, but your romance will probably generate one. Remember, every company is different. Some are cool with employees dating or marrying, and others see office romances as potential lawsuits waiting to happen.
To my knowledge, Southwest Airlines is the only company that actively encourages employees to date on the job; so if you absolutely must date a coworker, make sure that you’re working for Southwest Air. The friendly skies are pretty darn friendly over there.
For any new readers to He Says, She Says, I must preface this month’s commentary with the simple fact that I am an elementary school teacher. Regardless of my stance on work place romances, I have about a snowball’s chance in Hades of finding romance at school. That’s not to say that workplace romance doesn’t happen in schools. I’m sure it does; but since 99 percent of my co-workers are married women and I’m interested in single men, I’ve never paid much mind to the fine print of my employee handbook regarding the matter. That being said, I’m all for the office romance, assuming that all three parties involved are operating under the same rules.
I say all three parties involved, because there is the romantic couple and then there is the place of business. I’ve been out of the traditional business world for the past eight years, so I’m a little rusty on the rules and regulations that are standard practice for most professionals. Certainly, companies don’t encourage employees to intermingle, but when you spend 40 plus hours in close proximity of someone you have a crush on, it is pretty hard to step back and say, “I wonder what Old Mr. Bossman would say about my water cooler flirtation today? Let me refer to section 45, line 18 of the employee handbook for some perspective.”
A key element when pursuing or being pursued by a co-worker is to be sure that all of your behavior is appropriate for the given work environment. No one wants to be involved in anything close to harassment, even if one’s intentions are without malice. There are some foolproof rules that any normally functioning adult can manage to abide by and still have a postive relationship with his or her employer.
1. Don’t date your boss. Whether he/she is the manager of a donut shop or CEO of a Fortune 500 company, if you’re going to dip your pen in the company ink well, do so further down the chain of command.
2. Don’t be a reckless idiot. This means, no public displays at your place of work. Don’t send risqué emails or make advances during business hours with company supplies. Mad Men is a fictional TV show about life in a Manhattan ad agency nearly 50 years ago; it is not an accurate account of how we conduct ourselves nowadays.
3. Don’t get your heart broken. This is mostly directed at the more tender men and women out there who always get their hearts broken. You know who you are! If you have a bad track record with hookups and breakups, steer clear. Save yourself a lot of drama and possibly your job by avoiding the office dating scene.
If you can follow these simple rules, you may be as lucky as the 43 percent of people engaging in office romance. This does not make you lazy. In fact, it might make you more efficient. You don’t have to spread yourself thin with all the other extracurricular activities that people seeking romance engage in (see the He Says/She Says archives for columns about online dating and summer loving).
As much as I am a hopeless romantic, I really think that most people find love and romance in the most ordinary places. It is not a matter of over-the-top serendipitous encounters; it is being in the right place at the right time. Let’s face it: You spend most of your time at work. Dating someone at the office gives you that little spring in your step, normally reserved for high school cheerleaders watching their boyfriends score touchdowns. I’ll take some of that.