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Nine things to note before engaging in office romance

Nine things to note before engaging in office romance

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Tunde Ajaja

The shame that confronted both of them as they were ushered out of the office premises that morning could make anyone in their shoes want to attempt the unthinkable – like entering the ground, if possible – at that moment. It all happened in the full glare of their colleagues.

The incident happened in East Anglia, United Kingdom, few months ago when two co-workers of Tesco Superstore were caught having a romp in the sack in the office after the close of work. In fact, it wasn’t the conventional way, the guy, 35-year-old Neville Fox, who was the Fresh Produce Manager, was performing oral sex on a younger colleague, who was 19.

They were recorded by a group of youngsters who saw them through the window from somewhere in the neighbourhood, and after the video went viral and the firm investigated it, they were both fired from their jobs. UK Sun reported that the lady cried as she was escorted off the premises, alongside a distraught Neville.

Frankly, it goes without saying and it’s entirely understandable that romance (not necessarily sexual) in the workplace is one thing that has been there for a long time and might not fade out completely. It is even more pronounced in offices where employees spend lengthy time at work, which makes it more probable for one or two of them to start having attraction for one another and from there take things beyond official.

On why people actually go into relationship in the workplace, a consultant psychologist, Prof. Oni Fagboungbe, said, “There is always a setting that brings people together and so, when two people meet consistently in a setting, maybe in the office, market or even in the airplane, and since stimulus and response influence people’s actions and behaviour, that is why people meet anywhere and they fall in love.”

While that of Neville and the 19-year-old lady led to sexual intimacy, some do not get to that level and it’s just a matter of enjoying each other’s company. Also, while some, including married persons, do it as a fling, some others initiate it with the intention of getting married to such persons. However, the latter is the focus of this piece. Thus, for people considering engaging a co-worker in a serious relationship, and not just based on shared feelings about something wrong at work, here are things to note before giving it a go.

One should quit if company policy forbids it: This is arguably the most important factor, as it even determines whether the lovebirds would still remain employed once a third party finds out. While there is nothing wrong with falling in love with a (junior or senior) colleague at work, everything could be wrong with it if it’s against the policy of the company. This is because it could lead to the sacking of either or both of them if the company policy does not support it. Thus, before going into any relationship in the workplace, people are always advised to find out whether the company allows it or not. If it’s not allowed, such persons, provided they are both serious and confident it would lead to marriage, should have a tete-a-tete about it to determine who would go and who would stay. This is necessary before the company finds out and one or both are sacked. Notably, the decision is often but sometimes arguable that the person with the brighter prospect and higher pay should stay while the other should leave. Fagboungbe said such persons should weigh the cost benefit analysis and put other variables into consideration.

He added, “Offices have organisational policies and conditions of service, so, people should understand the condition of service of the organisation and that is why organisations should also do orientation for their workers. Romance is infectious, and if care is not taken, before you know it, you have carried it to an extreme level that is not tolerated by the office and someone could lose their job.”

Be ready to separate work from romance: Being in love has been found to create the same feeling with being high on cocaine. A biological anthropologist and relationship researcher, Dr Helen Fisher, once revealed after a series of studies on the brain chemistry of being in love that the same huge volume of brain chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine, are released and that many of the same brain pathways and structures are active when people are in love and when they are high on cocaine. Thus, with that background, being in love tends to make people do what they ordinarily would not do at work. But, according to experts, people in a relationship at the workplace should learn to separate work from romance. Thus, such persons are advised never to bring in unsettled quarrels into the workplace and should never be caught fighting or flirting. This would not only make them unproductive, as it would lessen their concentration, it could as well give an employer a good reason to sack them. Thus, let relationship squabbles stay outside the office.

Don’t be all over each other: It is equally helpful for such persons to create as much space for each other as necessary, so that an employer does not get an impression that the relationship would overshadow their primary responsibilities in the office. Thus, such persons should not be seen to be eating from the same plate, cuddling, holding hands on the hallway or frequently visiting each other’s offices for reasons that could not be seen as official. These, no doubt, could send a wrong signal to an employer. In addition, normal courtesies should be sustained during meetings and on the phone or in an email as such email exchange could be needed for future official purposes.

Never do ‘it’ in the office: While there could be the temptation to hurriedly touch a lover in some sensual parts, perhaps when no one seems to be around or when the walkway is quiet, persons involved in office romance are advised never to give it a try, as they could be caught. Even though giving such a try, especially in unexpected places, could qualify as an adventure, it can equally lead to a lasting embarrassment, if caught. Perhaps, Neville and the teenager he was dating with would have kept their jobs if they had left the romp in the sack for somewhere outside the premises. Also, given that there would have been some close interactions before such could come up, chances are that some colleagues could be curious or monitoring them closely.

Keep it a secret as much as possible: No doubt, some things are better kept secret, and office romance could be one of them. Apart from the fact that it keeps the affair out of general (public) scrutiny, if anything goes wrong, the gossips, which could easily make things worse for both persons, would have been eliminated. Thus, before announcing it to everyone in the room or sharing the information online or tagging them in suggestive manners on the social media, it is advised that such persons should exercise caution. Also, at social gatherings organised by the office, there is the temptation of hanging around such persons and even cuddling, but experts say bosses and other staff members tend to remember whatever happens in such places. Fagboungbe said, “Discussing personal issues could have official implications and so one should be very careful in such places.”

Have a life outside the workplace: In order to avoid boredom or regimented experiences in the relationship, people engaged in office romance are often advised to have an active social life outside the office and of course maintain other relationships with friends and distant acquaintances so that all their discussion with their partners would not be all about happenings in the office. They are also advised to go for picnic and occasional vacations. This would add spice to the relationship.

Note that break-up could be hard to deal with: While the thought of having a loved one few metres away can be comforting, it could equally be hard to deal with when the love affair goes sour, and sometimes, either of the two persons might be constrained to quit working in the office because of the psychological worries. The emotional strain can be overwhelming, especially when the former partner is now seen to be very close to another person of the opposite sex in the office. Thus, people engaged in office romance should always bear in mind that dealing with a break-up could be hard to deal with, especially as they would often see each other.

Be mature about your expectations: While people tend to nurse a sense of exclusivity and even ownership, it is pertinent for people engaging in office romance to remember that the other person is an adult and would have friendly relationship with other people in the office. Hence, to avoid unnecessary jealousy and ill-feeling, such persons should keep this is mind. Also, public display of affection and use of pet names should not be entertained.

Avoid having affair with married persons: Apart from being a religious or moral offence, everything is wrong with having an affair with a co-worker that is married. While the office space could seem like a haven for such illicit affair, especially as the person’s spouse is not in the same office, findings show that it’s a quick way to lose respect and a ‘concerned’ co-worker could inform the spouse about the affair.

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