Consenting Adults – how to handle affairs at work

Flirting goes on in as well as out of the workplace. But what if things are more serious? How do you conduct an office affair with discretion? When, if ever, should you come clean and own up?

The good news is that office affairs, if not exactly encouraged, are no longer considered a hanging offence by many companies, so keeping it hush-hush is not always necessary.

The pros and cons of keeping any romance under wraps will still exist, though.

For being discreet:

  • You feel your private life should be just that – private. Blossoming romance is a delicate flower that may wither beneath the scrutiny of the public eye. Or – to put it another way – do you want everyone knowing your business? People will gossip and speculate. You will get asked how things are going on a regular basis. Colleagues will joke about marriage at a stage when you’re barely into the first tentative snog. The pressure can kill a relationship stone-dead before it starts.

  • Gossip can be harmful. What people don’t know they will often make up. This can only apply if they know enough to get them interested.

  • You may be accused of nepotism or pillow talk.

  • You may get teased by colleagues.


  • Office gossips will probably suss you out anyway. Trying to keep the affair under wraps will only lead them to believe there’s something worth gossiping about.

  • If the whole thing gets serious you will probably need to confess your love at some time. Colleagues may feel peeved that you could keep the whole thing to yourself for so long. Didn’t you trust them to be discreet? The answer is probably “no”, but tact will be needed. They may think you have other things you are keeping from them. They may start to look at you from out of the corners of their eyes in future.

  • People love a good drama. If you keep your affair under wraps you will deny your poor, bored colleagues a good source of daily entertainment.


From Sex at Work – A Survival Guide by Judi James, published by The Industrial Society. ISBN: 1-85835-570-2. Price £8.99. For more information or to order, click here.

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