Magazine article Workforce

Romance Has to Happen at Work

Magazine article Workforce

Romance Has to Happen at Work

Article excerpt

I'm not aware of any real workplace as lovesick as Ally McBeal's, but it's impossible for any office to be chaste when the President's extramarital affairs are fodder for Jay Leno's nightly monologues.

Consider this workplace: Two employees had a long-term romantic relationship. The woman is still unhappy that it ended, and hasn't completely resolved her feelings. She isn't shy about sharing that fact. The man, meanwhile, has married someone else and his wife also works in the office. The lawyers (this is a law firm) have been known to talk about their romances in open court. The managing partner moons over his failed relationship in staff meetings. There's a secretary so interested in other people's lives that she openly eavesdrops and uses listening devices to catch every detail. And the whole office shares their personal lives with one another in the unisex restroom.

Aren't you glad you don't work there? Fortunately, you can't-it's the workplace on "Ally McBeal. " It's TV, so it has no bearing on reality, right? Or does it? Television has never been known as a leader of social change, only a reflection of it. I'm not aware of any real workplace quite as lovesick as Ally McBeal's. But it's impossible for any office to be chaste when the President's extramarital affairs are fodder for Jay Leno's monologue.

Is this progress? Sort of. Generally, it's better if employees are allowed to be fully themselves at work. If we take off the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, we can admit that it never really worked to ask employees to set aside all semblance of a personal life at the front door.

But we've taken the wrong path to get to the right place. I would be all for this new openness if it were borne of healthier attitudes toward love, sex, relationships, and communication. But it isn't. Instead, it springs from the need to adapt to perverse circumstances. …

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