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In love with your colleague?
Pradipta Mukherjee
September 05, 2005

In today's fast-moving world, when professionals often spend more time at the workplace than at home, office romances are not improbable at all.

Or, as some may say, such relationships are inevitable.

How does this figure in a corporate set-up? Do you need to follow the mantra of all work and no play, else the boss might sack you?

image "Nothing of that sort," says Pratyush Ghosh, who works in a call centre. "The basic rule here is: do what you want, but don't get caught." His advice: "If you are a bit too friendly with a female colleague for your superior's comfort, don't send e-mails on the internal system, send SMSs instead!"

However, Shalini Bhattacharya, a bank employee, warns, "If you are getting into an office romance, be prepared to face the consequences. Else, don't fall for a person who's working with you or for you -- that's our policy."

As managers familiar with multinational environments point out, whether in the US or in India [Images], office bonding is a part of every corporate set-up. Several information technology sector companies encourage such ties because they feel it helps keep the employees together and happy.

The recently published US-based career information portal Vault's 2005 Office Romance Survey has found that more than half of the respondents have dated a co-worker, while about half of them have kept this a secret at their workplace.

In Kolkata [Images] too, office flings appear to be well kept secrets.

Some companies in Kolkata have adopted a strict policy vis-�-vis office romances. Interestingly however, many companies do not have laid-down rules that speak against office romances.

The director of an advertising agency said, "Office flings are not necessarily steady relationships. It's more about compatibility. I particularly rely on two of my junior colleagues who, their colleagues said, were having a relationship. I spoke to the lady who admitted they were having an affair and I was free to do whatever I wanted to after hearing this. As long as they do their job well, I don't mind. I offered them only one advice: 'Try your best to keep your relationship a secret'. After that, their work performance improved!"

Also, it seems the companies that have adopted a strict policy towards office romances are actually unsure of the right way to handle such a situation.

"There are people whom you are comfortable with, and there are people with whom you are extremely comfortable while working in office. We can't do anything about it unless we see them doing something that is too close for comfort in the office," said an HR executive.

Most young professional we spoke to were of the firm opinion that the company has no business interfering in one's personal life. Twenty-six-year-old Sushma Bherunani, who works in an MNC, said, "As long as the work is not affected, I believe nobody has a right to say anything."

Again, not all work-place romances are smooth sailing.

Radhika Shaw, who was earlier employed with a PR firm, confessed, "I was quite open about my relationship with a colleague, yet there were times I had to face barbs and taunts from some colleagues. At the same time, there were others who were quite cool about it. It all depends on the firm's culture, I guess."

Employees say that, in today's competitive environment, the bottom-line is profit. So, naturally, companies are keen a certain decorum be maintained. "Anything outside the boundaries of decency cannot be accepted," confirms the team-leader of a reputed MNC.

His advice: "When you are in a relationship, be sure your colleague is trustworthy and has the same feelings towards you. Don't worry about your boss; if you are good workers, your seniors are unlikely to worry about it. And, of course, don't discuss your relationship with your colleagues. Gossip mongers are the greatest danger to you, your relationship and your career."

Discretion and decorum appear to be the key words in relationships with colleagues unless employees want to attract the wrath of the office moral police.

Recently, Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher was sacked in the US after his affair with a junior was revealed.

The culprit?

Intimate e-mails sent on the company's internal system.

The case has launched a whole new debate about corporate morality.

Does a company have the right to dictate terms about an employee's private life?

In case of office romances, how much is too much?

Besides, who's to decide what is 'inappropriate behaviour' in the workplace and what's not?

What do you think?

Let us know.

Also, have you been in an office romance? Would you like to share your story with us and offer tips to those who find they are falling in love with a colleague?

Or, maybe, you have watched your colleagues fall in have some advice for them.

Write to us. Don't forget to mention your name, age, city and the company/ industry you work in.

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