Flirting At Work — Just Fun?

Lots of companies frown upon romantic relationships in the workplace, but people still flirt and fall in love everywhere from cubicles to the corner office.

So what's the real deal when it comes to mixing business with pleasure?

The current issue of Best Life, a men's magazine, has the results of two online polls on flirting and romantic relationships between office co-workers — 1,121 men and 1,451 women responded. Although the results are not scientific, meaning they are not valid representations of the country, The Early Show decided to have fun talking to two experts on the subject.

One of the most talked about findings is that 92 percent of the male managers who responded admitted they have lusted after a female co-worker.

"We were shocked it was that low," magazine's Stephen Perrine told co-anchor Hannah Storm with a big smile on his face. In contrast, 81 percent of the women who responded said they have felt "creeped out" by an older male colleague's attempts at flirting.

"I think it depends on the guy," said Cosmopolitan magazine's Kate White. "If your boss is a Larry David or William Shatner-type older guy vs. George Clooney type, you're going to feel creeped out."

Women are a little bit more discriminating in their lusting, White said. According to the poll, 52 percent of women say that they have fantasized about an older male colleague.

"Power is an aphrodisiac," White said. "I think it's possible that if he is this hunky guy, he's powerful, he's someone you look up to, it's easy to say he looks like George Clooney. He's lust worthy."

Perrine said he thinks that finding love and excitement in the workplace is common. And often people see flirting as harmless.

"The key is to only allow yourself to be open to people who are appropriate choices," he said. "I think it crosses the line, No. 1, if you are married and you do anything you wouldn't feel comfortable telling your wife about, that's crossing the line. I think if you're single, you know, if it was your daughter would you feel comfortable with her flirting this way with her boss. That's a good barometer as well."

According to the poll, 41 percent of men said they have worried about being judged by their co-workers for mentoring an attractive female employee.

"I think it's a lot about appearances," Perrine said. "People will gossip. If you're sleeping with your intern, people will gossip. If you're not sleeping with the intern, people will still gossip. You want to keep being professional."

He said the best way for the relationship not to be misconstrued is to treat everybody the same way.

"Keep the door open," he said. "If you have late night sessions with her, you should have late night sessions with other employees. Don't do anything special. Don't let her brag about her closeness to you."

He also said that bosses have to be careful about how much personal information they share with subordinates.

"If you don't have an intimate relationship with someone," he said, "then you probably won't have an intimate emotional relationship."

Twenty percent of those polled said they had slept with an older male colleague.

"I think there is that power appeal," White says. "But you have to be careful because you don't want to get into the subordinate boss situation. That's frowned on. You may see it as an end in itself — I'm just being playful. He may see it as an invitation."

Perrine said: "I think as long as you don't have the power to influence the other person's career directly, that's fine. It's power imbalance that it gets dicey."

The current issue of Cosmopolitan magazine has an article titled, "Finding Love at Work."

"It's a great place," White said. "You can do a reality check, background check with co-workers. It also starts with a friendship."

White said that a lot of companies have policies against dating co-workers, "even when you're on the same level."

However, Perrine said, "Sometimes you just have to go for it."
  • Tatiana Morales

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