Sex in the Workplace

Cover of 2001 edition of Minding the Store, UN...

Cover of 2001 edition of Minding the Store, UNT Press (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stanley Marcus, the son of one of the founders for Neiman-Marcus, married a buyer at the famed store. Yet even still, he cautioned against fraternizing in the workplace in one of his famed memoirs. (He has two that I read a couple of decades ago: “Quest for the Best” and “Minding the Store,” I presume it was in the latter.)

Many times I have had clients or friends talk to me about sex in the workplace and while it does make sense it is important to be extremely cautious and very guarded about your behaviors.

First it makes sense because you are spending eight hours/day, five days a week, years on end with these people. You are joking, flirting, going to lunch, travelling together, team-building and even sharing intimate details of your life with these folks. They are like your family – except they are not. This is why we often cross the line. When you begin to become so intimate with people, they start to look sexy. This happens with clients and their therapists all the time. When you are being nurtured by a certain person or persons, you grow to love them – or at least think you do. In the workplace you are not leaving, unless you or they quit.

If you begin to have or are considering a triste with one of these folks, keep some things in mind.

1. No matter how exciting this becomes – DO NOT share it with your co-workers.

Be Advised – Your co-workers already know you are having sex with someone before you even have sex with them.  Remember they know you inside and out and don’t need to be a therapist to pick up on the subtle cues: eye movements, body language, extra time in their office, sneaking phone calls, your sudden elevated change in appearance, new perfume, long lunch dates, etc…

2. See if you can change departments (if you work in the same unit).

If this is your boss or their boss, you are now a CIA agent and must only offer up information on a “Need to Know Basis.” Your colleagues won’t appreciate the fact that you no longer indulge in daily gossip but you are now intimate with the guy/gal on top, pardon the pun, and must respect their position of authority, as if you were in their shoes. You are still being considered for promotions and evaluations, so if this doesn’t work out, don’t be surprised if you are suddenly put in a different area. It is only sexual harassment if it is quid pro quo – you do this for me and I will do that for you. If you choose to engage in sex with a boss, or higher up, you can’t expect there won’t be a fallout in the end, just as there would be if you didn’t work with them and it ended badly.

3. Do not ride to work together in the same car. Even if you did sleep at their house.

4. Do not attend company functions together.

5. Remember to continue behaving like a professional at all times.

6. Go to lunch or dinner out-of-town not in the same area where all your co-workers go. Look for out-of-the-way, hidden areas, if there are any or just wait till after work and meetup about 20 miles away.

7. Don’t be impatient – the longer you have to wait, the better it will be. Focus on your job, take your mind off the other person during those 8 hours.

Put the event date/time on your personal calendar that gives you an alarm so you know when it is time to think about the person once more. Once you know it is handled, go back to counting widgets, do your budgets, create a new spreadsheet, anything to occupy your mind on something dull (The initial phase eluding to, night one and then after having sex really does take people into another dimension. You have to work extra hard at being deceptive in the beginning.)

8. Anyone who still thinks sex will get them a promotion, doesn’t really think highly of themself. Learn how to do your job properly and get a raise on your paycheck.

9. OMG – don’t post it on FB, LinkedIn, Twitter, or any other internet outlet. Obviously you don’t want to put photos online either.

10. PLEASE USE BIRTH CONTROL – playing around = safe sex not getting pregnant or worse. If you don’t take control, you lose control.

These are all common sense ideas that we all know and say “duh” to but believe me, all these rules are broken when someone thinks “THEY” are special and are the one. You have lust, raw emotions and passion that comes from a build-up of tension in the workplace, it is rarely love.

What screws up the relationship is when it becomes everyone’s business in the workplace. This ends the affair quickly when one of the parties gets a reality check imagining the unemployment line.

What strengthens and continues a workplace relationship is when no one knows. What drives a long-term career romance is the seduction, the secrecy, the shared efforts in hiding the liaison.

Think with your head not with your heart.  If you are thinking with your heart at least pay attention to these rules. Workplace romance is one of the most erotic fantasies that are played out in the real world. It is also very unsafe and can cause job dissatisfaction, not to mention loss of one’s job, income and career aspirations. Is it really worth it?  Yes it is (for passion’s sake) but are you in it just for sex or for a long term committment? If you wish to have the latter, you really have to play by the rules and become a different person in the office.  If you are just in it for sex, at least have some integrity with your position [at the office]. Don’t make your sex life front page news.

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