SEX AT WORK: The Reality

jim and pam the office

You can’t talk about it or mention it, but you can certainly think about it, and according to a new column by Liz Ryan in BusinessWeek, almost everyone does.

“The Truth About Sex At Work…” Ms. Ryan begins, and then she explains that, in addition to being professionals, we are also people, and people have desires, and…

Then Ms. Ryan quickly progresses to this startling anecdote:

After I once spoke about this topic at the Bar Association in New York, a partner at a big law firm came up afterward to say that his firm had taken out the security cameras in its stairwells. “We picked up so much sexual activity on the cameras, after midnight, that it was a liability to have the videotape in our possession,” he explained.

Ms. Ryan is not calling for a work-world in which employees can just leap into each other’s arms in front of their colleagues–for obvious reasons, this would be uncomfortable not conducive to a productive workplace.

Ms. Ryan also does not think that bosses should be sleeping with their paramours if the paramours also happen to be direct reports.

What Ms. Ryan wishes, which is presumably something that lots of human employees wish, is that we could just talk about it.

Here’s the sex-at-work policy that Ms. Ryan would like to see enacted:

We hire vibrant and sparky people here at Acme Explosives, so it isn’t surprising that some of them might end up being attracted to one another. The one thing that doesn’t work is when two people who are involved in a romantic relationship also have a reporting relationship. To put it another way, you can’t date your boss or your boss’s boss. That could easily create an unfair relationship, so if you want to date your boss or your boss wants to date you, somebody has to change jobs, either inside the company or to another company.

Apart from that, you can date whomever you like, but please keep the kissy-touchy part of the relationship out of the workplace, for everyone’s comfort. Physical displays of affection between colleagues (whether they are dating or not) are not comfortable for other people. If you want our help navigating a situation that has to do with dating or romantic attraction and your job, please talk with Carolyn in HR. She is an expert at that sort of thing.

Sounds reasonable. And also seems to be the de facto policy that many companies adhere to.

What do you think?

Read Liz Ryan’s column here >

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