Office Romance – Life Imitating Art?
By: Dr. Helen Ofosu
Office Romance – Life Imitating Art?
Two Weeks Notice and Working Girl … what do these two romantic comedies have in common, other than the happily-ever-after theme? For any Rom-Com movie lover, the answer is obvious — they both take place in the office. In keeping with office romances featured in films, there is also Fatal Attraction and 500 Days of Summer, but in those movies, the love stories have a less than cheerful conclusion.
As adults, we recognize these positive and negative Hollywood narratives of workplace attractions can be based on reality or they can be fictional. What is real and relatable are the romantic temptations that sometimes exist on the job. Just like in these films, people in real life can fall hard for a co-worker, an assistant, advisor or even the boss.
Take care with office romances
Using these movies as examples, I’d like to examine the potential and not so optimistic outcome of a tryst or a serious office romance. Keep in mind I am not suggesting that healthy and happy relationships cannot be formed on the job. I merely want to point out some unpleasant situations that could unfold.
Two Weeks Notice
Let’s expand this storyline into a more realistic scenario. Imagine you’re working for someone who is in a powerful position and is well known to the public. Initially, it might be flattering and enticing if they take a special interest in you. Perhaps, you both begin to develop feelings, especially after spending a significant amount of time together. At first you might be thrilled with this exciting new connection, but in the end, you keep a level head and decide to resign from the job. Yet, suddenly your charming boss is having a harder time letting go. Remember, you should consider your employer is an important reference for another position and if that romantic relationship sours or your departure from the workplace feels like a personal rejection your career could be seriously compromised or even ruined.
This scenario is tricky. There’s a love triangle, a ton of deception, and a trace of patronizing attitudes towards women. But, I’m more interested in focusing on the unseen outcome of this film. Sure, the character played by Melanie Griffith finally breaks the glass ceiling (notwithstanding the obvious help of a brilliant, playboy businessman who becomes her lover). So, what might have happened after the credits rolled? In reality, this couple may have broken up. True to her flirtatious ex’s character, he strikes it up with yet another naïve secretary trying to make it in the man’s world. This is a fairly common situation where multiple affairs happen in the workplace. Remain mindful that not all office romances last as long as the career you’ve worked so hard to establish.
This one is more obvious. Office romance already carries a high potential for drama, but an affair? Well, that will certainly raise the stakes. The storyline of two people having a secret sexual encounter behind the office blinds, or under the desk is the stuff of steamy movies. In reality, as in this thriller, the consequences can be disastrous. It can destroy your marriage, family, and sense of safety and security. If that person you have invited into your personal life is volatile and obsessively invested in the relationship you could really place yourself in an extremely harmful situation. This hot mess only gets worse when your livelihood also hangs in the balance.
500 Days of Summer
You meet someone and instantly your heart races. It is difficult to put the breaks on that kind of emotional rush. We’ve all felt that intense connection with someone at some point in our lives and just like in the movies, it can happen with a total stranger. In the office, love can hit you fast with the arrival of a new co-worker. You may become distracted and what’s worse, your work can become completely compromised.
Before anything “real” develops, it can still disturb the efficiency and quality of your professional performance during, and more importantly, after the romance. Many people who experience a serious break-up become depressed and withdrawn. Having to see your ‘ex’ all day every day let alone work with them, would be a challenge at best.
Consider the beginning, middle, and potential end of that relationship before you fall too hard. Could it negatively affect your career?
Do you have HR or career-related matters that you’d like to discuss? Please contact me by email, phone, or via direct message on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn if you’d like to discuss any of these topics in more detail.
More than career coaching, it’s career psychology®.
I/O Advisory Services – Building Resilient Careers and Organizations.
Easily share this article using any of the social media icons below.