A recent court ruling has put the relatively prevalent practice of hopping into bed with co-workers onto shaky ground. The California Supreme Court said last month that a manager who has affairs with subordinates can create a work climate that constitutes sexual harassment even for those who aren’t involved.
The ruling arose out of a case brought by employees of a women’s prison in Chowchilla, Calif. Two women sued the Department of Corrections because their boss was sexually involved with three women at the same time. (Note: If he taunted his subordinates by saying, “You couldn’t get laid in a women’s prison,” it apparently was not mentioned in court documents.)
The plaintiffs were not necessarily appalled that he couldn’t keep his pants on, but rather that he created a situation whereby women who didn’t play along might not advance in their careers as steadily as those who did.
Because of this decision, underlings have to be more careful about who they’re under. Superiors can only lie with equals. The list of do’s and don’ts in the employee handbook has one more don’t.
Feel like making love? You might have to resign first.
For those who don’t think they can fight the feeling, here are 10 tips for finessing the new rules:
1) Create a diversion: If you’re a manager and you’re having an affair with, say, Amber the fiercely ambitious marketing intern (or for the female managers: Jerry, the dopey hunk from sales who deftly lays a single rose across the computer keyboard of his intended prey), you’ll want everybody in the company to think you’re getting horizontal with someone else altogether. So come up with a stunt lover: a friend, a neighbor, a total stranger, an escort, etc. Have them come up to the office and lay it on thick in plain view: Kisses, hugs, maybe a pinch on the bottom. Then leave the office together, separate, and go off to meet your intended. What you don’t want to do is get involved with the stunt lover. Because if the stunt lover demands a high-paying job that will make everybody jealous, that would defeat the purpose.
2) Institute a hiring freeze: This way a manager can’t be accused of playing favorites by promoting lovers who are current employees to fill vacancies. If somebody leaves the company, don’t replace that person. Simply say, “My hands are tied.” Of course, your hands may actually be tied, but that’s another issue.
3) Impotence alert: For men, this requires a certain suspension of ego. Spread the word around the company that the apparatus is not responding. But do it subtly, like in a group e-mail: “If anybody gets any spam claiming to have a miracle cure for impotence, let me know.” That will throw everybody off the track so you can pursue your extracurricular longings unfettered. (Note to female managers: the all-encompassing “female problems” will work as an equivalent, though that could mean anything from frigidity to ill-fitting pumps.)
4) Get a sex change: No, not a real one. Just a disguise. Start dressing up as the opposite sex. Tell your co-workers that you’ve always felt you were a man trapped in a woman’s body, or a woman trapped in a man’s body. That will remove suspicion while you spend quality time with your favorite minion. If nothing else, you’ll at least have access to both executive rest rooms.
5) Expand your pool of partners: Let’s say your employees think you’re having an affair with one particular person. What you want to do is confuse them. Try inviting each and every employee into your office — even those of the same sex, a sly wrinkle — for an extended closed-door heart-to-heart. When the door opens each time afterward, fix your hair and adjust your clothes. That way no one can be sure who you’re having the affair with, and everybody will be suspicious of everybody else.
6) Transfer your lover: Send him or her packing to one of your branch offices out of state. But not really. Instead, they’ll be working out of the No-Tell Motel across town. Once in a while you can hold a meeting in your office during which your lover appears on a video hookup from his or her “distant” location to report in, and you can play it up by putting a palm tree or a fake snow drift in the background. Of course, if you’re inclined toward having multiple lovers, you’re going to have to explain to your higher-ups about the company’s sudden expansion.
7) Promote your enemy: This might be dangerous, and should only be used as a last resort. Determine which employee in your office would be most upset if you had an affair with another employee, and promote that person. It follows Michael Corleone logic: “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer,” and should eliminate any objections to your affair. Of course, the enemy you promote may keep climbing the ladder and eventually eliminate you from the payroll, so make sure the person you’re involved with thrills you to your pelvic marrow.
8) Stage a fight: Get into a phony but explosive knock-down, drag-out fight in the middle of the office with your lover. Call each other every name in the book. Expose his or her faults to everyone around. Then don’t talk to each other for a few days. Besides creating the illusion for everyone else in the office that you hate each other, it’ll be good practice if you two wind up getting married someday.
9) Let yourself go: Don’t work out. Eat like a slob. Smoke, drink, don’t shave (legs for female managers), dress like a clown. After that transformation, no one in the office would ever believe a person like you could ever be involved with someone of the opposite sex. The problem, of course, is that the person you did all that for may wonder the same thing.
10) Get married and remain faithful: Sometimes the obvious course of action is the wisest.