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Modern Etiquette: Sex in the Office

Monday, February 28, 2011


Many of us agree that the workplace is the most romantic place in our world. A recent American Management Association survey revealed 40 percent of office workers queried had engaged in the riskiest of all social games—office flirting. Furthermore, 43 percent of the women confessed to having sex with a colleague, whereas only 35 percent of the men owned up to having played that most dangerous game—office sex.

It's not surprising that romantic liaisons blossom in the workplace where we spend half of our lives and it's safe and easy to make conversation on common ground—when you're young and single who has time to look for romance? It's only natural that we become attracted to potential lovers in our workplace when hard work doesn't leave time for socializing. If half the workforce admits to having had an office romance, it's risky business. Handled well an office affair can lead to a committed relationship, otherwise it is just as likely to awkwardly fizzle out.

Upsides, downsides, to office romances

The upside to allowing office romances is that coworkers are happier, more energetic and therefore, more productive—and not surprisingly, they have fewer ailments. It's a no-brainer, when you don't have to spend time and

money looking for a date because your workplace is ripe with other singles—on top of that there is the advantage of early morning sex and saving money by carpooling.
The downside to inter-office dating is that constant contact with a lover can cause either friction, ennui, or both, ending in a most gawky breakup; what's even worse is that coworkers inevitably take sides. Rivalry and competition can thwart a romance. It is most-valuable to have a fraternization policy in place that is publicized and enforced. An unbiased policy that doesn't favor seniority or gender won't prevent romances from developing, but it will make those contentious breakups less egregious and litigious for coworkers and management to navigate.

Workplace romance dos

Do a double take. Ask yourself, do I really want to risk being romantically involved with this person? Or do I just want frisky sex? Keep in mind the fact that, men think fleetingly about sex 15 times a day, whereas serious sex crosses a women's mind five times a day. Is this just a crush? How does the risk-reward stack up?
Do you think you can trust this person? Can you rely on him/her not to discuss your private conversations? Can you be sure that he/she won't share confidential information?
Do focus on the friendship first, before you hookup—don't make a fool of yourself and lose your self-respect. If the romance is just about the sex, forget it because you'll end up feeling used, abused and sorry for yourself.
Do be honest about the relationship because if you're not, the situation will seem inappropriate—as in the fact that you actually have something to hide. For instance, if you're having frisky sex with your boss in the hope of a promotion.
Do be careful not to gloat or flaunt your romance in the workplace by keeping to a minimum handholding, touching, and kissing—wouldn't you feel silly getting caught with your pants down when the lights go on in the office supply closet. Better to spring for a hotel room on your lunch break.
Do date a coworker, but don't show favoritism toward him. Be professional by being equally generous and fair to all your colleagues.
Do be careful with what you write in e-mails to your romantic partner because you never know when either Big Brother or Wikileaks is reading your message. Both men and women tend to let their guard down in e-mails, falsely assuming they are sharing a private dialogue. Reread to make sure your e-mail is appropriate for your business environment before clicking send. Never put any information in an e-mail that you don't want others—other than the two of you—to know.

Workplace romance don'ts

Don't talk about your workplace off the clock, make a concerted effort to have a well-rounded romance balanced with common interests outside of work—sports, travel, reading, music, cooking, art, theatre, video games, poker, bird watching, managing your portfolios, pets, movies, hiking, yoga, photography.
Don't overreact to jealousy, or act jealous when someone flirts with your lover. You knew what you were getting into—right?
Don't discuss the sexual prowess of your romantic partner.
Both sexes are reacting to huge changes in our economy and society where the rules are no longer crystal clear, when taking it to the next level proceed gently and respect everyone in your world.
Didi Lorillard met her husband when he interviewed her to work for him, although he was married at the time and she took a different job, they wed years later after his divorce. Ask Didi questions at www.NewportManners.com or follow her on Twitter and Facebook—after you've read her previous columns on www.golocalprov.com.

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