Office Relationships in the Silly Season

Office Relationships in the Silly Season

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Are you the sort of person who’s very tempted to get ‘off your head’ at the Christmas company ‘do’? Are you likely to say what you really think of the boss after a couple of drinks? Or do you have plans to lure your co-worker to the stationery store room so you can express your hitherto unreleased admiration?

Here’s one word for you. Don’t.

Yes, the Christmas ‘do’ is the right – and probably only – time for reindeer antler headgear and cheap Secret Santa presents. But that’s all.

Things have changed in a big way over recent years. A decade ago you could be reasonably confident that you could get away with some fairly rambunctious behaviour as long as the boss didn’t know about it. Now you could find yourself featuring on a social media site within minutes – and out of a job within 24 hours and worse … a legal case in the making. Your reputation will suffer and your work prospects will be affected forever, because nothing dies on the internet.

It’s very tempting for anyone with a mobile phone to upload some photos or videos to YouTube or Facebook. They might regret being so indiscreet the next morning, but by then the damage will have been done. And of course, it’s not the photographer who receives the inevitable backlash but the star of the show.

Christmas is not the only time of the year when employees take risks that end up costing them their jobs. Flirtatious behaviour can go too far. If an approach isn’t reciprocated, feelings can turn sour and result in a toxic work atmosphere. If it is reciprocated, and other employees are aware of a developing relationship, accusations of unprofessional behaviour are possible. And from that point, the only way is downhill.

Men may think that sexualised office banter is normal. Women often feel that they are being bullied or being singled out in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. Worse, if the approaches are coming from someone further up the hierarchical ladder, women are likely to worry that their job will be in jeopardy if they don’t respond as the man wants them to. Being hit on in a workplace setting is oppressive, worrying and demoralising.

Studies have shown that about 40% of workers meet their prospective partners at work. This means we should all be aware of what actions are acceptable – or not – in the work environment. Keep your personal and work lives separate. Work relationships or affairs can mean taking your eyes off the ball and letting your work standards slip.

Some employers have workplace policies that prevent employees from uploading workplace material to the Internet. By posting inappropriate images or video, that person could harm the employee’s or company’s reputation. By acting against company policy, they may jeopardise their own position, or ultimately, their job.

Basically, the only person who is going to look out for you is you. Guard your reputation, both personal and private. It’s all too easy for colleagues to develop an opinion of you that is quite wrong, particularly once details of your actions, innocent or not, are made available on social media.

Treat your colleagues professionally, and when you’re celebrating the silly season, take a step back and look at yourself. It could be just the thing that stops you from having your fifteen minutes of fame.

What do you think?

Jon Michail is Group CEO of Image Group International, an award winning author and recognised as Australasia’s No 1 image coach. Image Group International supports executives, entrepreneurs and their organisations to become iconic and monetised leadership brands.

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