Sex and the workplace

Sex and the workplace

Taboo or acceptable?

 By Stacey Ritz

Should colleagues at the same company be allowed to have sex? The Business Insider’s Henry Blodget recently published “Sex-At-Work Survey: The Results Are In!” After surveying 2,500 individuals, Blodget found that more than 84 percent of survey participants believe colleagues at the same company should be allowed to have sex, while 52 percent shared a positive attitude towards the notion, so long as the relationship is handled professionally and doesn’t involve a relationship in which one person reports to the other at work. An additional 10 percent feel that it’s fine to have a sexual relationship with a colleague – no further explanations needed.

Additionally, more than 84 percent of survey participants have dreamed about having sex with a colleague. What do you think? Can you have a sexual relationship with a colleague and not allow it to impact your work environment or productivity? Is this possible?

Sex in the workplace has traditionally been considered taboo, but attitudes appear to be changing. The work environment is often a way people meet their significant other, their soul mate, thus cultivating sexual relationships. If you meet your future partner at work, do you act on or ignore those feelings? Historically, the workplace tells us to ignore those feelings. But more often than not, relationships are born in the office. Is it really so bad?

The average American spends more than 40 hours a week at work. Spending so much time in one place is bound to lead to the development of some relationships. Five years ago, an anonymous resident of Troy met his future wife while working an office job where relationships among office workers were deemed “off limits.”

“I just didn’t see what was wrong with asking her out on a date. We worked together at the time, yes, but I had feelings for her and wanted to explore a relationship with her, and she wanted the same from me. I’m glad we broke the rules. We had to hide our relationship during work hours, and that was hard, but I’m glad we gave it a go – this past year we were married. Had we not acted on our feelings, I would have never met the love of my life. To say that you can’t have relationships with your colleagues is absurd to me. Work is where we spent all of our time – how else were we really going to meet someone? Being in a relationship with my future wife didn’t make us do anything inappropriate at work. In fact, I think it made us both like our job even more because we wanted to be there. I can see how things might have been weird if we would have broken up – it could cause tension in an office, but come on, we are adults. I think we can handle keeping ourselves professional while dating a colleague.”

Fifty-one percent of survey participants shared that they have wanted to have a sexual relationship with a colleague, but not pursued it for the sole reason being that they were colleagues. Less than 5 percent have admittedly switched jobs because of sexual tension with colleagues. Fifty-four percent of survey respondents admitted to having sex with a colleague at some point in their lifetime and again 54 percent shared that they had sex with multiple colleagues over the years. The real shocker: more than 48 percent shared that they had sex at the office.

Sexual tension can cause the work environment to change for those struggling to deal with the taboo of sexual relationships at work. An anonymous Dayton area office worker shared the disastrous story of two of her former coworkers who destroyed their careers while choosing to pursue a relationship with each other.

“They were both married to other people, but working together they developed feelings for each other. Both individuals involved in the relationship were so obsessed with hiding it from their husband and wife at home that they tended to flaunt their relationship at work. Maybe they were trying to hide it at work, too, but it sure didn’t seem like it to those who sat near them. It was awkward for the rest of us, because we all knew they were married to other people outside of work, yet we could all hear their flirtatious comments and we saw the way they looked at each other. Awkward is the only word I can think of to describe the whole situation. It caused a lot of gossip in the office, too, which can’t be good for company morale.” The anonymous office worker went on to share that the individuals were later caught having sexual relations in the workplace stairwell and were fired. Both lost their careers. Both lost their marriages.

Television shows often portray workplace relationships as the norm. For example, take Jim and Pam from “The Office.” Jim and Pam developed a loving relationship while colleagues at a paper company. Years later, they were married and had a child together. The relationship appeared to enhance their happiness in the workplace and did not cause tension or upset in the office. But what about real life? Can relationships like Jim and Pam’s truly develop and allow the workplace to maintain a professional and productive environment?

“I’m frankly shocked that the survey results show that anyone at all cares about sex in the workplace,” shared Laura Linley of Beavercreek. “I mean, if it’s sexual harassment or something like that, that is absolutely not acceptable. But to be dating someone, or to marry someone from your workplace … what is wrong with that? Why would anyone care? Shouldn’t we all hope to find love and shouldn’t we want our friends and colleagues to find love, too? You can’t help who you fall in love with and if it happens to be with someone at work, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I don’t think anyone should have sex in the office, of course. But to have a relationship outside of work and to maintain a professional status while at work, in my opinion, that is totally acceptable.”

With 39 percent of survey respondents believing 21-40 percent of their colleagues have had or are having a sexual relationship, the secret is coming out. While respondents are close with their estimate, they need to raise that number a bit. In reality, more than half of workers have had sex with a colleague! Attitudes towards workplace relationships appear to be shifting towards a more positive light. Many argue that the Internet is quickly becoming the biggest source for finding a mate, while others still strive to meet the love of their life the old-fashioned way – in person. Tom Anderson of Xenia explained, “I would rather meet someone face-to-face, to know you have that connection with them. How can you really feel that online? I don’t think you can. But you know when you meet someone in real life – in reality, you know if you have chemistry or not. If you meet someone in the workplace, I would consider yourself lucky. You would be able to get to know that person over a period of time, you would know that you live in the same general area, too, because you both work together. If you met someone online, they could live half way across the country, and how are you really going to make a relationship like that work?”

Whether you believe that sexual relationships are taboo or acceptable in today’s workplace, statistics are screaming loud and clear that the American workplace is changing its view on the topic. Today you can walk into an average workplace and find co-workers who are married and those just beginning their relationships together. The overwhelming majority of Americans are not offended by this trend, as more than half admit to having sex with a colleague at some point in their lifetime. Dayton resident Doug (who wishes to keep his last name anonymous for purposes of this article) commented, “Why should I care if any of my colleagues have had or are having sex with each other? It’s not happening in the office, we all have sexual relationships. So who really cares if it happens to be with a coworker or not? It shouldn’t make a difference. I don’t care who is in your bed and I don’t want you to care who is in mine. I can’t even imagine a workplace that didn’t allow relationships among coworkers to exist – that disallowing of relationships would undoubtedly cause a hostile work environment, I think. But if workplaces just stay out of our bedrooms and let us be, I think that’s how they can keep a welcoming environment, a professional workplace and an overall good place to work. No one wants to share the intimate details of their life with their boss!”

If you find yourself developing feelings for a colleague, think before you act. Are you harming your career by pursing the feelings you have for a coworker? Will acting on your feelings for a colleague negatively impact your relationship with others in any way? Whether it’s in or out of the workplace, some say when you meet a compatible individual, “you just know.” It has often been said that love is the most powerful drug. Regardless of when cupid strikes – workplace or not – why not chase an opportunity for happiness?

Reach DCP freelance writer Stacey Ritz at StaceyRitz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

 

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