Corporate America is adjusting to two realities. A) The workplace is staffed by men and women; B) Men and women are attracted to each other.
Fortunately, we are talking business rather than government, so the taxpayer didn’t spend millions of dollars arriving at these startling conclusions. Nevertheless, while both of these factors have been realities for a while, for the past few decades the assumption existed that you could control (B). So, inter-company romances were frowned upon and were even cause for termination.
A recently released study shows that in most companies this is no longer the case. As long as the relationship is between unmarried peers as opposed to an adulterous affair or boss/employee mix, romances no longer need to be kept secret.
But there does seem to be a difference between romantically seeing someone in your office vs. someone you meet in a college class or at your local coffee house. Unlike students, employees seem to be aware that actions have consequences. Your boss may not care if you date the guy in IT, but should things end badly, she certainly will mind your ducking behind the copier machine every time he walks by. You can rather easily change a class schedule or stagger the time you get your latte, while avoiding a team meeting because you are mortified at how you behaved the night before has more severe ramifications.
So co-workers are behaving in a rather old-fashioned manner. They are actually getting to know one another slowly, building a relationship one step at a time and avoiding hasty physical intimacy. Sounds a bit like courtship, doesn’t it? This places it at the complete opposite extreme of the “meet/hook-up/break up” culture so rampant on college campuses and featured on sitcoms.
This suggests that thousands of people function with a warped view of reality. Threat of money loss leads them to orchestrate their personal lives in a mature and thoughtful way but not the threat of even more serious personal damage. After all, there is tremendous potential for debilitating physical, psychological and emotional consequences from unhealthy male/female relationships, which is perhaps the very definition of a hook-up. So, few people are willing to risk their paychecks or careers for a fleeting thrill, however large swathes of the population are willing to offer up their very beings.
There are so many ways that being in the workplace, in contrast to school or volunteer work, provides a dose of reality. To that long list we can now add learning healthier ways for men and women to relate. Can I, only slightly tongue in cheek, suggest that instead of increasing student loan access and channeling as many students as possible to college or so-called public service, society would benefit more from making a few years of work experience a pre-requisite to either of those options?