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D.F. Krause
  D.F.'s Column Archive

April 2, 2007

The Office Romance Strikes Again


Spring is in the air, and when a young executive’s thoughts turn to love. Or is it just cleavage? The two can sometimes be indistinguishable, especially when the weather starts to get warmer and business attire begins leaving less to the imagination.


Do you think a CEO’s hardest job is finances? Marketing? Operations? Please. The biggest pain in the butt for any CEO occurs when employees start dating each other.


The office romance is as old as Grandma Moses. In fact, forget the Grandma part. I suppose it’s understandable. You work in close quarters with members of the opposite sex. If you’re single, you’re going home at night to Spaghettios and possibly some sort of lizard. No wonder your co-ed co-workers have got your attention.


If only you could find a way to keep it from being my problem. Oh, but you never can.


“D.F., I think I would like Melanie on the project team. Melanie has some excellent background for this sort of project.”


“I see. Melanie has worked in engineering? Because I could have sworn when I hired her that her resume said Bath and Bodyworks.”


“Well, D.F., her background for a project like this is more intuitive.”


“Of course it is, Spengler, and it has nothing to do with any of Melanie’s other, er, attributes?”


Spengler took Melanie to lunch. Four times last week. Two of the four times they left separately and returned separately so as not to be obvious, or so they deluded themselves. I was so fooled, especially when I saw them out my window and she was – I guess – helping him extract a piece of food from his teeth. The teamwork at this company!


I decided to let Spengler put Melanie on the project team. If they were going to be, er, working late, they might as well actually be working on something. Besides, I knew this wouldn’t last. I am an old hand at this.


Spengler and Melanie are attracted to each other because they share the same experience of having been annoyed while working for Vargas, who has a habit of giving assignments, changing assignments and moving deadlines around six or seven times during the life of a project. Commiseration over this miserable experience – well, this and the relative thinness of Melanie’s blouse material – led to mutual passion.


They could keep busy, and get busy, together and be much happier. The problem was that Spengler has many of the same habits, and Melanie likes to say things like “let’s get this done right” and then skip a step or two or 10. I could see that this was probably a three-weeker at best. Sure enough, by the beginning of the third week, Melanie asked if she could work on Blickwad’s project, and Spengler was asking if he could outsource Melanie’s role on the project.


I made him do her part himself. That’s what you get for wanting to work with someone because you’re sleeping with that someone.


In-office flirtation is usually harmless. At least I think so. The last time anyone flirted with me in the office, I was so excited I hardly remember anything that happened on “Miami Vice” that night. But I’ve seen so many short-term couplings in my years in business, they’re all starting to seem the same. They all pretty much follow the same path. Someone who’s relatively new makes the acquaintance of an available counterpart, aisle talk increases exponentially, lunches get longer, group chat focuses on you-know-what . . . and of course, e-mail program windows are instinctively minimized by the participants whenever the boss walks into their offices and/or cubicles.


Then the whole thing is over in a few weeks. The breakup is easy to detect, as the entire atmosphere of the office changes overnight as if a nightclub had been taken over by a funeral home.


I do not have any advice for office lovers. I am happily married 10 years, and while it’s true that I did meet Mrs. Krause at work, I quit that job five weeks after she started. Otherwise, I might have had four dates with her and then ended up asking to be re-assigned to projects where I didn’t have to see her.


As long as people work together, they will fall in lust – oh sorry, I meant love – at work. I sometimes wonder why these people don’t know about, but as long as they follow the usual pattern, I suppose the annual company romance isn’t the biggest problem imaginable. At least not as long as business books and consultants are around.


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