Loosening the reins on work romance

| Print |  Email
Friday, February 01, 2008

HeartPencil.jpg

When Halle Reese Smith, a senior writer and project manager at Xerox, started dating one of her co-workers in another state, she tried to keep their relationship on the down low, confiding only in her closest colleagues. She did such a good job over the course of two years, that when Smith eventually asked for vacation time to get married — to the Xerox employee — her boss learned about the inter-office relationship for the first time.

In hindsight, Smith sees the covertness as unnecessary. “I was being overly sensitive,” she says. “I wanted everyone to view us as professional people.” But these days, for a generation less accustomed to compartmentalizing work and personal lives, office romances have stopped serving as fodder for sexual harassment lawsuits and become more of an accepted reality in many workplaces.

“You have a lot in common with your co-workers,” Smith explains. “You’re in the same industry and speak the same lingo. Work can be conducive to building relationships, both friendships and romantic.”

Even so, employees should still approach inter-office romances with a healthy dose of skepticism and caution, says Lisa Kinsley, general manager of human resources at Portland-based McMenamins. While the Northwest pub and hotel chain doesn’t have an anti-fraternization policy on the books, employees are told that job performance should never become compromised by personal relationships, no matter what.

“We’re not going to regulate or create a policy on the birds and the bees,” Kinsley says, “but we’re going to insist that you’re professional. If you can’t be professional and make good decisions in the workplace, you will be held accountable.”

While many companies have relaxed their standards and rarely prohibit certain types of relationships, most still specifically ban supervisor-supervisee dating. Kinsley says that to her knowledge, no McMenamins employees have entered into such a relationship, but she thinks that any supervisor dating a subordinate would be taking a serious risk. Xerox distinctly prohibits supervisors from dating their subordinates, Smith says, but colleagues working at the same level are free to date each other.

These days, Smith faces a new challenge, the result of a successful office romance. Her husband now counts as one of the 2,000 employees in the Wilsonville Xerox office. “It’s almost like we work at two different companies,” she says. “Sometimes we commute separately, with other co-workers, and I won’t see him all day. So it’s not hard to be married to a co-worker.”


LUCY BURNINGHAM


Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

Crowdfunding 2.0

News
Tuesday, December 02, 2014
120214-crowdfund-thumbBY LINDA BAKER

A conversation with attorney Erich Merrill about the latest way to raise money from large groups of people.


Read more...

Leading with the right brain

News
Tuesday, December 09, 2014
120914-manderson-thumbBY LINDA BAKER

On the eve of the Portland Ad Federation's Rosey Awards, Matt Anderson, CEO of Struck, talks about the transition from creative director to CEO, the Portland talent pool and whether data is the new black in the creative services sector.


Read more...

Behind the curtain: What students should know about accreditation and rankings

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, December 04, 2014
120414-edurating-thumbBY DEBRA RINGOLD | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

How important are institutional and/or program evaluations provided by third parties in selecting a college or university program?


Read more...

Corner Office: Pam Edstrom

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

Seven tidbits of information from an agency partner and co-founder of Waggener Edstrom in Lake Oswego.


Read more...

Editor's Letter: Power Play

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014

There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


Read more...

The short list: Holiday habits of six Oregon CEOs

The Latest
Thursday, December 11, 2014
121214-xmaslist1BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

We ask business and nonprofit leaders how they survive the season.


Read more...

Powerbook Perspective

January-Powerbook 2015
Friday, December 12, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

A conversation with Oregon state economist Josh Lehner.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS