Thursday, November 10, 2016

Office Affairs Are A Hot Mess

Never dip your pen in company ink.

This was advice a friend gave me when I started my career. It's good advice really, but let's be honest: When that hot guy from Procurement grins at me across the conference table, it's hard to remember why it's such a bad idea to date a co-worker. 

We spend eight to nine hours a day surrounded by co-workers who we know better than our neighbors. We make connections, build friendships, and rely on each other to get work done. It would be easy to fall into an intimate relationship with that hot guy and start a torrid office affair. 

That affair would make going to work so much more exciting. I would spend extra time getting ready every day. I would look forward to meetings with him, stolen glances in the hallway, and when he stopped by my desk to chat about a project. But what about the fallout? What happens when that affair runs its course and I am left working with a man whom I've seen naked? 

It would be awful to work with someone I've dated, slept with, maybe fell in love with, and now can't face without a barrage of memories. In addition to the emotional trauma, I would also have to contend with the impact to my professional reputation. 

As women, we battle established assumptions that any success we have is attributed to our sex - not our gender, but our sexual behavior in and out of the workplace. I've heard it before: She only got that promotion because she slept with him. They only hired her because she is young and pretty. She has no idea what she is doing, but they listen to her because she is a big flirt.  

We pour over emails, briefs, and presentations to ensure we represent our best selves to our peers. We do research and rely on our knowledge and experience to prove our recommendations hold weight. We know what we're talking about because we want our co-workers to trust our opinions. When we show weakness or doubt, that trust is tested. When rumors spread through the office that a woman has slept with a co-worker, her judgment is questioned in all things personal and professional. 

What was she thinking? How awkward is the next staff meeting going to be for everyone else because she couldn't keep her legs closed?  

It doesn't matter that two consenting adults made the decision to have an affair. Men have been excused from culpability in office romances since women first entered the workforce. The social mindset still dictates that women are responsible for maintaining professional boundaries. We are the ones who wear the sexy clothes and makeup. We are emotional. We hold all the power to say 'No.'   Men just can't help their natural instincts. 

We must defend our professional integrity as fiercely as we protect our hearts. If I were to give in to those sexy smiles, I wouldn't do myself any favors professionally. It might be fun for awhile and might even lead to something amazing. It may not be career suicide, but is it worth the risk? 

If you are seriously considering an office affair, weigh the decision carefully before you say "yes" to that flirty guy you run into by the copier. There is a reason they say, don't shit where you sleep, because a romance with a co-worker can be the most unimaginable mess. 


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