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Risky Business – Affairs in the Workplace

The workplace has become the prime launching pad for modern infidelity. ~ Shirley Glass, author, Not “Just Friends”

Had a rough day? Your co-worker would understand much more than your spouse; you rationalize that you don’t want to take the stress home and dump it on your partner. Why not grab a bite to eat with your co-worker? When you share, your colleague not only listens, she is empathetic and really gets it.

And, hmm, you never noticed before but she is sort of cute. She starts telling you that she gets no support from her husband, that he invalidates her stress and thinks his job is way more stressful than hers. You think, wow, how come her husband doesn’t listen; she really has nice eyes. The sexual tension builds and you start slip-sliding away…from your marriage, that is.

Research shows that 62% of men and 46% of women who stray found their extramarital partner in the workplace. Not really a surprise when you think about how much time is spent on the job. Men and women in close quarters with a lot in common spend more time with each other at work than they do with their husbands and wives at home.

A recent survey of employees by Randstad Work Watch found that:

1. American workers are happier at their jobs as a result of their work friendships. 67% reported having friends at work makes their job more enjoyable.

2. 53% of women and 42% of men said they have a “work spouse,” i.e. a co-worker of the opposite sex with whom they have a close platonic relationship similar to a marriage.

Are these relationships dangerous? They certainly can be.

Ruth Houston, infidelity expert, says “A work spouse relationship is a workplace affair just waiting to happen.” When hormones are raging people don’t stop to think about the risks of getting emotionally and/or sexually involved with a fellow employee.

Besides the obvious hurt to his spouse, risks include: loss of productivity, reputation or job; resentment of others and disruption of the workplace environment; being the object of gossip; a sexual harassment lawsuit; having to face the person if the affair ends negatively; feeling shame and humiliation if news of the affair is discovered on the job.

Workplace affairs are much riskier than people imagine. Here are some tips to avoid getting into this conundrum:

  • Don’t leave home without your marriage – Some people are able to put their marriages in one box and their work lives in another. Make sure your work and home lives are blended.
  • Establish clear boundaries at work – Keep conversations focused on the job or light conversation about your weekend. Don’t talk about your spouse in any deep or negative way.
  • Avoid being alone with a co-worker – Don’t make a habit of going to lunch or spending time talking with a person you are attracted to.
  • Connect with your spouse during the day and share your work stories at home.

Bottom line: Beware of the slippery slope of attraction at work, or as one person commented on our blog, “Never get your paycheck and your nookie at the same place.”

We would love to know what you think about workplace affairs on our Facebook page.

Here’s to your relationship,

Lori and Bob Hollander


Lori Hollander, LCSW-C, BCD, and Bob Hollander, LCSW-C, JD, are licensed counselors and co-founders of Relationships Work, an innovative therapy practice and online resource center that gives couples 360 degrees of support for extraordinary partnerships. Sign up for Radical Relationships, a monthly eZine from Relationships Work, and receive Why Take the Journey to Extraordinary? absolutely free.


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