On The Job- The Office Romance

If there was ever a complicated situation in any workplace, it's the Office Romance. Some lead to marriage, some lead to a series of situations which could make a soap opera.

The difficulty is that you're basically conducting your private lives in public. Most people have the decency and the sense to respect your privacy, but some don't, and it can be a real minefield.

Invading other people's privacy is a hobby for some people, and a career for others. A lot of damage can be done. The workplace can become a very toxic environment, and there are actual chances to lose jobs, or have them sabotaged.

Case study 1. The girlfriend.

A middle level manager had struck up a relationship with one of his admin girls, and a happy couple could be seen going to lunch regularly, and dating. This was fine, until a promotion in another section came up. The manager wasn't on the panel, and his girlfriend got the job. The allegation was that the relationship provided the promotion. In this case, that wasn't true, and the manager had no input, but the assumption was that he?d put in a word for her, which he hadn't.

The result was an appeal from another applicant, which lost. The person appealing had alleged favoritism, and been rebuked for spreading false rumors. That started off a minor hate campaign in the office. The girlfriend was getting a lot of hostile reactions from the friends of the people who hadn't got the job, as well as the other applicants. Fights over anything and everything became very common, and the new section turned into a war zone. The office gossips had a field day.

The manager, furious, got the manager of the other section to stomp on the problem, which of course just made things worse. Eventually the girlfriend, miserable, got herself transferred to another position, but the damage was permanent. Both of them, stuck with more exposure of their private lives than they could stand, eventually decided to leave, and it slowed their careers, as well as putting a bit of strain on the relationship.

Case study 2. The married couple.

John and Betty had been married for years, they met in the office and married. The trouble started when they began working together in the same section. They were both popular, and very experienced. Nobody minded Betty coming to the section, and things worked well, for a while.

That is, until the domestic situations came to work together. There were very uncomfortable scenes, when they'd had a fight, and also some downright embarrassing situations, when the couple?s marriage hit a few minor rocks in passing. There weren't any scenes, but you could feel the tension. Staff tried to avoid being anywhere near them when they were together. That became noticeable, and John and Betty, naturally, got quite self conscious. They tried to keep it all at home, and for a while it worked. They were nice people, and realized their friends were being as tactful as possible.

Of course, human relationships don't just happen in one place. Marriages certainly don't. As often happens, a trivial thing started a war. It was about lunch. John made an off the cuff, thoughtless remark. Betty, irritated, responded with an equally thoughtless comment in reply. The result was, for them, a screaming match, although nobody yelled or got excited. A series of murderous remarks was exchanged, some personal, in earshot of the whole section. Other staff, embarrassed, found reasons to be elsewhere, but the stampede of people also embarrassed John and Betty, and each blamed the other. At the end of the day, the marriage was at risk.

Fortunately, a manager, and an old friend from before they married, had the sense to mediate, calm them down, and make sure Betty went back to her old section. After that things soon calmed down, but not before rumors of a marriage split, adultery, and a lot of other utter rubbish had done the rounds. Their friends sorted that out, and silenced the gossip, but it was hurtful.

In both cases, the relationship, which isn't anybody else?s business, became everybody else?s business. There?s such a thing as too much information, and people do have feelings. These were actually pretty typical, innocent, situations, but even so the snipers went to work.

Some office relationships don't work, and are just destructive.

Case study 3. The ex-partners.

Cynthia and David had a very nasty split. They hated each other, and their friends in the workplace, inevitably, took sides. The two sides ran each other down at the slightest excuse. It got worse, though, when David was accused of stealing by one of Cynthia?s best friends.

David wasn't a saint, but he wasn't a thief, either. He was furious, and naturally thought Cynthia had put her friend up to making the accusation. He confronted Cynthia, and a loud, noisy, fight took place, the two of them yelling at each other, during work, and in the middle of other people's phone calls.

It so happened that while she really loathed David, she hadn't had anything to do with the accusation, and had been more surprised than anything. David, however, had made some pretty insulting remarks about her best friend, who she defended strongly.

The fight got both of them in trouble, serious trouble for David, already under a cloud, and bad enough for Cynthia, who wasn't the star performer in the company. The manager had by now had enough of David, and was a lot less than impressed with Cynthia. He knew the background, and demanded to know the truth, and Cynthia?s friend was dragged in to state her case. She?d been doing a stocktake, and had found missing items in stock David?s section regularly used. She?d made the accusation against David without evidence. Cynthia was stunned. David was less than impressed, but for once kept his mouth shut.

The manager was exasperated. He had missing stock, some idiot who made accusations out of thin air, and two fools who didn't know when to keep their distance. The fight, however, was the last straw. He?d spent the morning dealing with clients who wanted to know what the screaming match in the background of their phone conversations had been. It had been so bad that some of them had had to ring back. A senior manager, who?d called at the time, was also interested.

The manager sacked the three of them on the spot. Cynthia was heard outside a couple of hours later, five stories below, telling her friend where to spend the rest of her life, in an anatomically impossible position.

There are variations on Case 3, but they're all in that area.

Moral of the story:

Two?s company, the rest of the office is a crowd. Leave the problems outside the workplace, and be careful. Relationships are supposed to be private. Make sure they are.

See Also:

Policies on romance in the office