by Sam N. Yago
Should workplace romance be considered taboo or simply allowed to happen?
|Over 30% of American marriages can be attributed to workplace romance. I know what you're thinking: How could something so taboo (in loose terms) be responsible for a significant percentage of unions in our country? Furthermore, with the onslaught of sexual harassment charges that have swept our nation over the last two decades, how could intimacy have been borne from that breeding ground of ridiculous litigations?
Well, it does. And, the fact of the matter, is unless you or someone you know is involved in one, it's happening right in the place where you work whether it's out in the open or not. But, if water cooler smooching leads to almost a third of our country's till-death-do-us-part demographic, why then is it taboo? Exactly what is it about workplace romance that is so wrong? Intrinsically, nothing. Two people at work fall in love. End of story. Sometimes, however, the story has a few twists and turns.
Sometimes, workplace romance is on the wrong side of the tracks — especially when it is between a supervisor and a subordinate. Love, after all, happens in the most peculiar ways. (Okay, so I borrowed from a different, more popular adage involving the supreme being, but I think you get the picture.) But, when an administrative assistant takes a dictation from her boss one minute, and then tickles his tonsils the next, one would say that there's something wrong with that picture.
Romance between a supervisor and subordinate — regardless of how harmless the couple may want to prove to others the whole thing is — cannot escape negative perception. I should know; I was involved in one once. And, no matter what she and I did to convince our co-workers that we were being professional about it, the simple foreknowledge was enough to make some of them uncomfortable. So much so that the whole scenario actually surfaced on a subsequent performance appraisal — something about my "not using good judgment" on the matter.
So, if supervisor-to-subordinate romance has its dangers, does it mean that peer-to-peer has nothing but rewards? Far from it. However, it is more acceptable provided things are handled right.
Studies show that peer-to-peer romance actually has a positive impact on the workplace. It has been found that co-workers who are romantically involved have been prone to exhibit enhanced cooperation, communication, and overall productivity. But, what if the relationship sours? How then would the productivity among the cubicles be? Or, worse yet, what if a rejected contender for the romance decides to act on his or her frustration over the blissful couple?
Perhaps the best rule of thumb concerning workplace romance is to be discreet. And, should the cat be let out of the bag — either by your own doing or other people's — keep the relationship as simple and toned-down as possible. In other words, you and your partner may want to stay away from those late-night romps in the office which eventually spur unflattering photocopies of your derriere inadvertently turned in with your client prospectus. (No personal experience to speak of regarding that, thankfully.) When all else fails, follow what perhaps is one of the most important occupational ethical codes that has ever existed: keep your home-life at home.
Of course, it would be much simpler if the relationships you develop with your co-workers were those of close friendships instead. But, should you be fortunate enough to be target practice for Cupid's arrow, and find yourself smitten with the IT Gal or that Copy Guy, remember to create a balance between your work-life and your home-life, and believe in the wisdom of those who came before us for defining the distinction between the two in the first place.
It would seem that workplace romance is somewhat inevitable because adults spend a good percentage of their waking hours at their places of work, interacting with other adults who have similar wants and needs in life and love. And we should probably simply consider ourselves lucky and think of the eight or ten hours we spend at work as a free dating service with paid overtime.