Conventional wisdom rarely leads to innovation. Jesse Brown tries disruptive concepts on for size, because they just might work.
Want some obvious and predictable career advice? Avoid workplace romance. It’s the one thing every HR guru and career coach seems to agree on: relationships with your colleagues are poison. They generate an atmosphere of gossip and rumour, they create messy power issues and conflicts of interest, they reduce workplace productivity, they can result in sexual harassment claims or even lawsuits. While offices can’t legally forbid inter-office dating, many discourage it and most require some kind of formal disclosure, which is pretty unsexy. We’ve all gotten this memo, we all know the dangers, and then half of us go ahead and date our colleagues anyhow. It’s time to stop sneaking around and feeling guilty.
The fact is, office romance is a good idea.
Advice givers are so focused on the negatives, they don’t take a second to consider the positives. How many relationships fail because one partner can’t understand or appreciate the other’s career? It’s hard for an outsider to understand how a coder can lose track of eight hours time while hacking away, or why a founder of a startup would rather spend a Saturday night poring over usage analytics than snuggling up on the sofa. Usually, the only people who “get it” are your own colleagues.
From management’s point of view, what’s there to be afraid of? Progressive offices go out of their way to make employees as comfortable and engaged as possible. They provide healthy food and snacks, free transportation, nap rooms, video games and massages. The idea is to make the office the happiest place in every worker’s life. Managers encourage team-building, social outings, and workplace friendships because they want contented and inspired teams who love each other’s company, who can’t wait to get to work and who want nothing more than to go above and beyond the call of duty.
Great atmospheres like this will inevitably lead to hook-ups. Is it such a stretch to imagine a workplace that doesn’t simply tolerate the happiness this generates, but actually celebrates it? Intense and informal workplaces like restaurant kitchens have always welcomed a bit of action within the ranks. It’s great for those involved and makes for good entertainment for everyone else. But if things get sloppy - if a couple disappear into the pantry and leave colleagues hanging at service time, or if a nasty breakup leads to a communication breakdown on the line, it usually doesn’t take a manager to set things straight. The offending parties will get chewed out by their own peers, who will demand that they act professionally or leave. It’s incredible how workers will self-regulate when management stops babysitting them.
Yes, things could get messy and probably will. But that’s not a problem with office relationships, it’s a problem with relationships, period. If you want to avoid entanglements, obligations, power-struggles and hurt feelings, it’s easy: don’t date.