When a colleague becomes a paramour, The Independent

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There are demonstrable plus points to meeting your playmate at work:

1. You know you will have at least one thing in common, as well as an informed ear to bounce all your troubles off when you get home in the evening;

Two. You will very likely have had the chance to probe this person fairly closely before beginning to date them. Work is a way of test-driving a potential fucking partner (ie getting to know them) before taking the plunge and asking them out. Better still, you’ll be observing them during the day, rather than just propping up a bar with them in the evening. This system obviously has advantages over night-time pick-ups in darkened clubs, holiday romances, (notoriously short-lived), or blind dates arranged by friends.

Three. The convenience factor. Work together during the day, pop out for a quick drink after work, Bob’s your uncle. High-powered City workers of the Nineties are habitual to using the office as a accomplish life- support system. Food is brought in to them. Drinks are on tap. Everything is in order, from stress-busting rubdown at the desk to on-site counselling, so why not pick a mate there too?

Making a pass is a dangerous manoeuvre in the workplace. If your interest is not reciprocated you could be accused of sexual harassment or – at least – end up looking sad and sleazy once the office gossips have done their worst.

The Chat-up: Fancying someone you work with is not a criminal offence and neither is asking them out. It’s always wise to keep in mind, tho’, that in the workplace you should think and plan before you act. Prior to making a play for a colleague, work out the following – however hard it is to be coldly rational under the circumstances:

1. Do either of you have attachments – are you or this other person married/living with one another? Do either of you have a stable playmate? Does that playmate work in the same company?

Two. What are your positions in the company pecking order? Are they compatible?

Three. Are you in any danger of being accused of favouritism if you commence to see each other outside work? Will the charge of confidentiality come up?

Four. How very do you value this person as an employee/ colleague/ friend? Will a relationship compromise that situation?

Five. What if you see one another and then break up? Will that affect the business relationship?

6. What do you expect the company will think about a romance inbetween you?

Etiquette: Dating a work colleague requires a good amount of old-fashioned social etiquette, not because it will make you any more attractive but because it will make the entire process a lot more comfy and a lot less difficult, if and when the entire thing completes.

Subtlety is not the wisest ploy. Working with someone means forging an effective relationship. Hinting that you would like to take things further but never being specific can make the entire relationship awkward, especially if it’s a boss/employee situation.

Attempting to blur the lines inbetween business and pleasure will emerge sleazy. This would entail getting someone to work late at the office and then taking them out for a meal "because it’s too late to go home and cook" or taking them away on a business conference and making sure your rooms are next door to one another. Hedging your bets in this way is mean. Working well with someone means being relaxed with them – and that is unlikely if you’re not sure whether they’re attempting to seduce you or not.

When someone operates in this manner, it is difficult to know when to say "no, thank you". If you do tell this colleague you’re not interested in them as a playmate they may claim – unfairly – that that was never their intention in the very first place, craftily extricating themselves from the area of conflict, leaving a sour taste all round.

Being positive: Surely the best stir if you fancy a colleague is to ask them out on a good, old-fashioned date. Let them know it’s a social thing too, or they may be unassured whether it’s a meeting to discuss business. Be light in tone but clear about your intentions (not all of them, of course). Permit them to see that you want to put the relationship on a social footing, thereby also permitting the courtesy of letting them turn you down too.

Plan your next stir if they do turn you down. Take no to mean no and never cajole, shove or ask for an explanation. Don’t skulk, sulk, or become bitter or sarcastic. Plan a semi-jokey line that will instantaneously alleviate the atmosphere inbetween the two of you and restore normal working relations.

Ordinary is best, as it avoids too much redden inducing-babble. So how about "that’s okay, no hard feelings", or "wise doll/chap"(whatever), or "no, you’re right. I love working with you, so why complicate things?" (put your own tone and inflection onto these). On paper they read a bit like Noel Coward out-takes).

And at all costs avoid the following: "That’s okay, no hard feelings – as I hope you won’t have when I tell you your pay rise has just been cancelled." Or: "So Quentin in accounts was right after all, you aren’t lezzie/gay".

Be polite, open, fair, and pushy, not furtive. Don’t drop hints or come on too intense. And never be lewd (good, old-fashioned word) or make a pass. How about: "Would you like to come out for a meal with me tomorrow night? Purely social, no work to be discussed." If you don’t like that, then write your own script, but make sure it’s something along those lines.

Breaking-up without tears: If you find this person is not the man/woman of your fantasies it would be brutal to keep things going beyond the very first date. Now, recall all those nasty little tricks people use to ditch someone will be absolutely no use in the workplace. You cannot stand them up or leave behind to phone. The phrase "I’ll call you" won’t apply because you’ll see their smiling face next morning in the office. and because of that there must be a rule:

Hookup on the very first date is OUT! Think Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. Think anything that will scare you enough to persuade you to wait until you are in a serious and stable relationship. This isn’t talking killjoy, this is just being practical. Do what you want on the social scene, but in business do not be too antsy. It is difficult jilting anyone you have to work with, but once you have had hookup it is a million times tougher and more complicated.

Be discreet: Never welch on a date. Don’t tell even your closest workmates what went on. There’s no need to keep the entire thing secret, but never, ever spill the beans about what was said and what was done. Be gallant. Never tell anyone you work with what a disaster/rave it was. Don’t discuss details of moles, birthmarks or size of figure parts. the excuse you present to your date for not observing them again should be the same you give to everyone else.

Word always gets back. Be charming and never inflict unnecessary suffering. If you are asked out by a co-worker and turn them down, keep that quiet too. Don’t boast about your pulling power and don’t mock the afflicted.

Hook-up At work: A Survival Guide by Judi James, published by the Industrial Society, is available in bookshops from three April, price pounds 8.99, or call one hundred twenty one 410 3040

The office bromides

Modern working environments have, to a certain extent, evolved their own checks and balances to counter workplace passion

The business suit. Clever it may be, but exposing it ain’t. Head and forearms are the only skin visible.

The most effective way of stopping all those hormones and testosterone in their tracks. Stress levels in business are high and rising. Good stress-surfing brings about the old adrenalin rush that can engender jiggish behaviour, but negative stress can make you too tired and anxious even to notice the hook-up of the person working next to you, let alone fancy them.

Which means added workloads which equals "too busy to even think about it".

Unattractive office behaviour like knuckle-cracking, foot tapping, slurping coffee too loudly, whistling, noisy yawning or noisy eating are all common practices in open-plan offices and can constitute a excellent turn-off.

Control those passions

There is a strange mental phenomenon that can overpower even the most serious-minded and conscientious employee when they embark on an affair with a colleague, and that is that they suffer a slightly controllable urge to get down to having hook-up at work. Why? (you may ask). The only possible response is: it is very horny.

For anyone thinking of indulging, I will add only five words at this point: open-plan offices; security cameras.

Need I say more?

If you must indulge, tho’, here are some of the favourite office catches sight of for consummating that torrid affair.

A prime nasty spot on account of the fact that what would normally host hour after hour of sweated victim labour should also be permitted to induce the odd bout of more fun-filled perspiration.

Desktops inspire the ultimate fantasy as business accoutrements are knocked to the floor with one fell swoop of a worsted-clad arm (difficult with all the PC equipment, I know – all those leads and buttplugs and mouse-mats), buns are unpinned, spectacles ripped off, plus all that ice-cold laminated chipboard opening up out underneath you with just the odd unseen paperclip or stapler to mar the magic of the moment.

Or any cupboards come to that – and the more cramped the better.

For all those blessed couples wishing to send their friends visual souvenirs of their intimate moments.

Fire drills a deux tend to be popular, with the glad duo tripping furtively up the fire escape to the relative privacy of the roof (plane roofs are safer but the more adventurous will swear by the sloping multitude). The added advantage of using the roof is that you can get a sun suntan at the same time.

The boss’s office:

For members of the Dangerous Sports Club only – unless one of the participants happens to be the boss.

For speedy practitioners only – unless you love being interrupted by firemen.

Basement car parks are usually badly lit, which could be an advantage, albeit stories abound of couples getting stuck.

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