Thursday, September 6, 2007

Workplace Love Gone Wrong

It’s estimated that at least 58 percent of you in the working world have dated someone you work with. I, myself, married someone I met on the job.

But I have to be honest here: I didn’t want to even date him (my husband) when he started making it clear he wanted to be more than friends.

I worried what co-workers would think about us, I worried what the boss would think, I worried what would happen when we broke up (I thought that was inevitable since I had never dated anyone longer than a few months.)

But more than 20 years later, I look back and realize that it was all my worries that helped keep our workplace romance where it should be – private. And it was his concern about my worries that kept the romance from being gossip fodder and hurting our careers. (OK, it probably would have harmed mine more than his – women still suffer inequality in the workplace in most regards.)

When I spoke with mediator Barbara Reeves Neal about love contracts she noted that these are pretty much the “flavor of the month” for companies trying to protect themselves against lawsuits when love goes wrong between employees. Getting workers to sign off on “behaving professionally” should they get involved seems a bit silly, considering we’re talking about adults, not lovesick adolescents.

The bigger problem regarding romance in the workplace may be what appears to be a growing trend: relationships that are blossoming among employees who are married to someone else.

Neal said she believes part of that is because employees are working longer hours than ever before, and become more emotionally attached to someone on the job as they work towards a common goal.

Since I know of at least a handful of marriages that have broken up recently because of an on-the-job romance with someone else, I tend to agree. Still, that’s not hard scientific proof, and is unfair to those who remain faithful to a partner while working closely with someone at work.

Neal, however, felt the problem was significant enough to offer these ideas to help keep some relationships strictly professional:
• No after hour meetings if they can be avoided. “Remind yourself of the family you have at home,” Neal says. “Go home to them.”
• No hotel room meetings. This can be slightly problematic when all the men – or all the women – want to meet in someone’s room and the one person of the opposite sex feels uncomfortable with it. Still, everyone should be understanding and hold all meetings in the hotel lobby or other meeting room. When traveling on business, stay away from dimly lit restaurants or bars.
• Remember that the “good feelings” you have working with that person are because you’re working towards a common goal. Don’t infuse the relationship with personal emotional attachment.
• Keep in mind you can seriously damage your career. Former Boeing CEO Harry C. Stonecipher was forced to resign after his involvement with a female executive in the company. Other Boeing officials found out about the affair between the married CEO and the woman when they got an anonymous tip. Your employer can dismiss one or both of you for violating a company’s code of conduct.

1 comment:

Michael Wolfe said...

Hey Anita...enjoyed this post on "workplace love gone wrong"...

I just did a similar post on my blog...