7 Common Myths About Workplace Romances
Have you noticed that we humans are really good at convincing ourselves to do things that a disinterested and sane person would say, “oh, hell no!” to? It’s usually around things like falling for a pitch that promises we’re going to make a pile of money, taking a job we really don’t want, or . . .. wait for it . . . romance.
Even though we may be fully conscious of all the potential negatives, we go deaf. Or have a serious brain cramp, I’m not sure which. So while our rational self is whispering “no, don’t do that,” our wishful self is enticing us with “don’t worry, it’ll all be fine.” Of course, you know as well as I do how many times it doesn’t work out so fine.
It’s bad enough when someone else tells you that you should have known better. Those people you can ignore. But when your rational self goes into a constant chatter that reminds you that you should have listened? It won’t shut up until you’ve paid some unknown price of penitence. Yup, hindsight is great and from that point of view you are surely your own worst critic.
As I get older, I am learning that it’s a good idea to remind myself to stop, answer some of my own pre-determined questions, and then see if I really want to move ahead. The questions are pretty simple:
- What are the possible and probable outcomes to my decision?
- What’s the worst and best that can happen?
- If I do this, am I going to like living with the consequences?
This has kept me out of unknown amounts of trouble, I am sure. And one of those is getting romantically involved at work. Let’s face it, the temptations are there. You’re around the same people a lot, and you get to know them well. It’s only natural that you’re going to feel a connection or affection for some of them. When that happens, it’s time to ask yourself the above questions.
But even then, we’re good at self-deception when we really want something. That’s when it’s time to get some reliable input to help your rational self win the battle. Sharon Schweitzer, a cross-cultural consultant and business etiquette expert, has assembled some reminders of reality vs. what your wishful self is trying to sell you on. Here they are:
Myth #1: your relationship is confidential.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. The romance is obvious and your colleagues are keen observers. Be aware of how your actions not only affect you and your partner, but also your work community and environment.
Myth #2: there is not a power dynamic.
There will always be a power dynamic involved, it comes with the territory. Whether the two potential lovers are peers at the time or not, someone is higher in the hierarchy. This adds politics, drama, and possibly harassment to the equation.
Myth #3: no one else is involved.
Not the case my friend, not the case. Your colleagues are dramatically impacted by favoritism and a new angle on office politics. If even the slightest appearance of impropriety or preferential treatment seems to be occurring, the employer may be liable for a hostile work environment. The potential consequences of your working tryst are harsh.
Myth #4: it’s personal, not business.
No, it’s not personal. This is a very slippery slope in office relationship dynamics. Generally, follow the rule that if it happens in the workplace or is connected to a business relationship, it’s business. This helps to eliminate favoritism and also keeps your professional and personal lives separate.
Myth #5: there’s no reporting necessary.
In most cases, this is wrong. Office relationships usually violate a company’s sexual harassment prevention policy. You may be required to report that you are dating or romantically involved. Knowing where you stand with your organization can help you make decisions.
Myth #6: all’s well that ends well.
These relationships can end in a myriad of ways. From successful marriages, damaged personal brands and widespread catastrophe, office relationships are a dangerous cocktail for thirsty professionals.
Myth #7 Gender doesn’t matter.
The United States ranks 28th out of 145 countries in the 2015 Global Gender Gap Index. In terms of wage equality, the United States is ranked 74th. Knowing that gender does matter, and that as a female engaged in a workplace affair, you have more to lose. Women may have another hurdle to leap, jeopardized job stability, and an altered career ladder.
About Sharon Schweitzer
A cross-cultural consultant, business etiquette expert and best-selling and international award-winning author, Sharon Schweitzer has built a career around understanding cultural differences and the tremendous role they play in building strong and successful international business relationships.
With more than 20 years of practical business and legal experience, Sharon provides a depth of international business consulting and training services to highly-motivated individuals , attorneys and corporate executives in global corporations and law firms. Her work and travels have taken her to more than 60 countries on seven continents. She speaks French and some Czech. Sharon is certified to administer the GCI (Global Competencies Inventory) and the IES (Intercultural Effectiveness Scale) intercultural assessments.