Technology is Taking Our Private Lives Public
The rise of the blogosphere and social networking sites means technology is revealing our personal sides to our coworkers—like it or not. "Sites such as MySpace and YouTube are expanding the reach and scope of office gossip," says John Heins, senior vice president and chief human resources officer of staffing company Spherion. In fact, a 2004 Harris poll showed that nearly one quarter of all individuals Google their colleagues. In other words, your boss knows what you did last weekend—and she's probably accessed the slideshow.
All of this insider information adds up to nebulous personal boundaries. "Our work selves tended to be less emotional and more disciplined than our private selves," says Tessina. "But now, high drama behavior is moving into our professional environments."
Josh, 31, a nonprofit organization fundraiser, can attest. "During our last work retreat, my boss was having trouble in his relationship and had an affair with a coworker. We shared a room, and I spent most of my time helping him interpret texts from the new interest—and craft nonchalant emails to send home to his partner. It was exhausting," he sighs. The added risk: How to go back to being boss and underling once you're safely out of the woods?
The Office Tryst is Going Offsite.
When the workplace is a buzzing nest of gossip, what do office lovers do? Lately, they get away—on the company dime. In fact, corporate travel budgets have gone up every year since 2004, according to the National Business Travel Association. "Technology is allowing us to work remotely, plus, travel's becoming a bigger part of the job," says Professor Lever.
Hooking up on the road covers two key agenda points: It keeps prying eyes away—and provides a great alibi for time spent together. "The great thing about off-sites is you get your [work crush's] undivided attention for several days straight," says Lisa, 34, a brand developer based in New York City.
Just be prepared: Sparks may fly—even if you're not looking to kindle them. "It's common sense when you put men and women on the road together," says Lever. "You think the office has gotten informal? That’s nothing compared to a dinner meeting at a hotel over wine." Especially when you can expense the Rioja.
You're Primed to Love Your Coworker (Or Boss)
When it comes to finding a mate, studies show that from socioeconomic background to education level, we're drawn to people like us. In that sense, work is like a homogeneous dating pool, full of candidates prescreened by HR. Beth was 22 when she took her first job. "I fell hard for my boss, Evan," she says. What hooked her? Little habits she came to know—and, eventually, love: "The movements of his long fingers over the keyboard. The way he threw his coat over the chair after lunch." Eight years later, "We work together again, only now I can't imagine what inflamed that passion," she laughs.
It could have been proximity—or power—at play. Your boss seems sexier because of his or her position of power, a result of paternal/maternal transference, explains psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz. And it's a common phenomenon: One in five people in Vault's survey said that they'd dated somebody they reported to, yet 60 percent of workers disapprove of the idea. The downside of dating up? "Real career gains will not be credited to your ability," Saltz warns.
Readers, what are your thoughts about and experiences with office romance?