Love in the workplace is usually frowned upon — and for good reason. Innocent flirtation and casual eye sex with a foxy coworker can be fun and harmless. Intraoffice dating, however, is an occupational hazard destined to end in catastrophe.
While the ill effects of the office relationship are widely known, even the best and the brightest attorneys at my law firm decided to take a crack at it.
In fact, the managing partner was rumored to have an intimate relationship with one of the female partners.
Of course, it’s possible that these two high-powered attorneys were just close friends — two close friends who spent an inordinate amount of time with one another. But would a friend walk into another friend’s office and turn down all the framed photographs of her husband?
Because the pair apparently did not deem the 60 hours they spent together each workweek sufficient, they would also come into the office together on weekends to do the P90X workout DVDs. The one time I had the privilege of seeing the tandem workout in action, the lady partner was wearing a spaghetti-strap tank top paired with spandex booty shorts. Her husband likely would not approve of the managing partner spotting her from behind as she raised and lowered her glistening physique on the pull-up bar.
Somewhere between the workouts, photo-flipping, regular lunches and visits to each others’ offices, the managing partner’s spouse started to catch on and was none too pleased. When all of the partners and their significant others were invited to a young attorney’s wedding, the wife put her foot down and refused to attend if “the other woman” would be in attendance.
Moments like this taught me early on in my time at the law firm that mixing work and play is a lot like mixing a drink with Bacardi 151 — seems fun while you’re doing it, but the price you pay afterwards is never worth it.
So when I was presented with an opportunity to forge my own office relationship, I knew I had to politely decline. Sure, it was easier for me than most because my suitor — the firm’s facilities clerk — wasn’t exactly the man of my dreams. From now on, I will refer to my personal office admirer as “Pinkie,” after the color of his nubby, cartridge-stained fingers.
One day while I was working at the law firm over winter break, Human Resources sent out an email around 10 a.m. stating that all employees were permitted to leave before the lunch hour in order to avoid icy road conditions. As we were leaving the building, Pinkie stopped and asked me if I want to go home with him to play board games at his apartment. As tempted as I already was by this offer, he nearly convinced me when he added that he had a spare Aero mattress for me to sleep on.
“Sorry,” I said. “I don’t play board games with people who are 30-plus.”
“I’m 29,” he replied.
“False,” I retorted as I hightailed it to my car before things could go any further.
Even though he was a little forward and creepy in his approach, I genuinely enjoyed Pinkie’s company. No, I probably wouldn’t have played Parcheesi with him under any fathomable circumstances, but I definitely would have considered a quick lunch with him at the local Panera Bread. But after one too many comments about how charming I was and how the 10-year age disparity wasn’t that much, I knew we had very different ideas about the nature and closeness of our rapport.
Giving him even the slightest reason to think that our in-office friendship might one day translate into something more could have been dangerous and required me to break off a perfectly good friendship.
In normal circumstances, when you break up with someone, you can start by divvying up the mutual friends and then deleting the phone number, email address and pin number, then top it off by terminating the Facebook friendship. At this point, you’ve officially freed yourself of all ties and wiped your hands clean of the sticky situation.
But when you date someone at work, you either have to quit your job — not exactly the best decision in an economy with an almost 10 percent unemployment rate — or, even worse, are forced to come into contact with the person in a professional setting on a daily basis. This means flipping them off as they walk past your cubicle is no longer a viable option.
And with so many fish in the sea, is it really necessary to cast your hook into the same small pond you work in?
In the case of passionate vs. professional, it is the judgment of this column that you shall be sentenced to a life term of in-office awkwardness should you canoodle in the copy room instead of concentrating at your cubicle.
Kelsey Borresen is a junior majoring in print journalism. Her column, “Laugh-Idavit,” runs Mondays.