A Woman’s View: workplace relationships

It is speculated that more than half the work force population will have an attraction to a coworker while interacting with that person on a daily basis. When working 40, or even more, hours a week at a particular job, it is easy to get caught up in the “work family” life and neglect your own.

Most see their coworkers more than they see their own families sometimes, which can put a strain on any home life. Many women find it easier to confide or look for relationship advice in a coworker of their gender, creating more communication problems between couples and bringing closeness between the coworkers.

“I complain about my husband all the time at work,” said Mychele of Frankford. “You just need that sometimes, because you work more than you do anything and work people know you better. There have been times I thought those men were more understanding, but in the end, they are all the same.”

Office relationships are a scary risk that any person can run into, whether it be emotional closeness or physical. Some women feel they cannot connect with their partners anymore on an emotional level and start looking to fulfill that conversational need with a coworker, many times of the opposite sex. It is estimated that about 35 percent of people in the workforce will have an office relationship, either a one-time slip-up or long-term relationship.

While emotional relationships are often not taken as seriously, they can still be considered a breaking of trust. Physical relationships within the workplace are looked at in a more judgmental way, because of a violation of trust and physical connections.

“I think I could forgive my husband for an emotional connection because we have all had those, but if he were to sleep with one of his coworkers, that’s it, we would be over,” Natasha said.

But how do work relationship begin? Usually it just starts with work conversations between people who interact closely. Then it will progress to a harmless lunch and discussions of likes and dislikes. As the friendship grows so do the feelings and the desire to interact more with that person or persons. At this point, most people would keep the relationship strictly confined to the work environment. However, in the event it progresses further, the next step is usually getting together or meeting for drinks after work outside the company.

When alcohol is involved, it can affect a person’s normal rational thinking or help to motivate someone’s confidence in trying new things. One thing can lead to another and before you know it, you have yourself involved in a very messy situation that will affect your home life, as well as your work life. Many people will not let their office relationships go past the work environment, or even if they do, can recognize the warning signs and be careful to steer clear of a potentially bad situation.

Another easy way for office relations to form is with a set of people who, because of the job, travel a lot and are away from the home for much of their week. Many women remain very loyal to their partners while they are away on business, but there are a few who have strayed.

“I slipped one time while I was away on business,” Amanda said. “I hate to admit it, but I had been traveling a lot with a fellow coworker and he and I had dinner one night and it just happened. I still feel horrible about it, but have never told my live-in boyfriend. It made it horribly uncomfortable at work after that, and I ended up having to leave the job.”

Not all office relationships involve cheating. Many long-term relationships – and even marriages – begin from meeting a single coworker.

“I prefer to meet a man at work. You can get to know him before you have to date him and it gives you a bit of an edge I think,” Stacie said.

Meeting someone at work can have advantages and disadvantages, and many employers frown upon employee relationships, especially if one is in a higher position.

“I met my boyfriend at work, and we are still together four years later,” Stacie told NEastPhilly. “My boss almost fired him, though, because he was supervisor.”

Many offices have strict policies set in order to prevent or eliminate the office relationship from forming, but not all are successful. The old fear of the so-called “thunderbolt” (the sudden rush of emotion that draws you to a particular person) striking at work has subsided in today’s society, as employers have become more lenient – though not full accepting – about office relationships. In any case, it is always in your best interest to be careful how far you take your work relationships, and with whom you interact closely.

On a poll taken of 20 NEast women, all 20 agreed that the No. 1 type of person they fear their partners would have an affair with is a coworker. That certainly might make you think twice about your work relationships.

A Woman’s View is a column about women’s issues written by Donna Ward. The column appears every other Thursday on NEastPhilly.com. See others here. Read other NEastPhilly columns here.

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