An affair, the taboo subject so often discussed by the unaffected in coffee corners, but seldom ever seen as a threat to a business. Until such time as an affair leads to the loss of a key resource or customer. Spare a thought for the significant number of company CEO’s who have left to pursue other opportunities after being discovered playing away from home, or the customers lost when a sales executive is exposed for inappropriate behaviour with a customer’s decision maker.
Unfortunately, workplace affairs are all too common and they can impact any level of an organisation. Consider the modern workplace, a place where people in the prime of their lives usually spend 40 – 60 hours a week, far away from their watchful spouse and demanding family. A place where we are encouraged to collaborate with others, who dress to impress and where flirting is seen as harmless office fun.
Most couples believe an affair would never happen to them, and consequently take little action to protect their marriage against an affair. The modern workplace’s approach to affairs is similar, ignore them until they become a problem, and when they happen, fire the involved people and move on, as affairs don’t happen that often, or do they?
Research indicates that affairs can affect 1 in every 2.7 marriages and considering that over a third of people admit to having an affair with a co-worker this means that a significant proportion a company’s workforce could be caught up in a workplace affair. If we look deeper into the exact definition of what constitutes an affair the statistics are likely to depict even more worrying figures.
It’s doubtful that many employers ever consider the impact of losing talented people who have to leave due to the fall out of a workplace affair. Consider for a moment the other effects, such as extended absences after affair discovery, employees at the office but lost in sorrow or the employee fearing a visit from an irate spouse.
Whilst today’s workplaces do not actively encourage affairs, they may unintentionally contribute by:
- Keeping employees connected to the office more than ever, laptops, tablets and smartphones ensure that employees are well connected to office “friends”
- Offering company email addresses that act as a safe electronic haven that is off limits to spouses, under the protection of workplace confidentiality
- Introducing workplace instant messaging (IM), IM has gone from being something teenagers used to an essential part of workplace communication, as well as being an exceptional flirting tool
- Facilitating long business trips that involve dinners and drinking, where the company picks up the incriminating receipts
- Making workplace great places to socialise, offices used to have a kettle and a water cooler, today’s offices have coffee shops, sofas and chill out rooms.
Yes, for the majority of employees the costs mentioned above are benefits of a modern collaborative working environment, but in the absence of boundaries and knowledge even the most well intentioned workplace benefits can be used for mischief.
Now, consider for a moment, “how much do workplace affairs cost?” You may be thinking “it doesn’t cost money so long as the company gets results”. A reasonable observation. But does your observation consider lost opportunities and reduced productivity? Simply put, what is the cost involved when your employee’s attention is diverted from closing a new customer towards closing the deal with their affair partner?
Some of the costs to consider:
- Replacing talented employees
- Recruitment costs
- Ramp up time of replacements
- Negative impact on existing customer relationships
- Seduction steals company time
- Lost revenues and opportunities as customers play second fiddle to an affair
- Longer coffee breaks and lunch hours
- “Sick” days
- Physical costs
- Destruction of company assets including cars, laptops, phones etc.
- Excessive business trips and travel companions
- Additional expense claims
- Non quantifiable costs
- Loss of shareholder, customer or supplier goodwill
- Angry betrayed spouses dropping by the office
- Office wide productivity lost to the rumour mill
Despite never planning it, the modern workplace is in fact a fertile breeding ground for affairs. People dress in their finest clothes and spend more time getting ready for work than they do for their spouses on a night out. Networking is actively endorsed to produce better results, and little thought is ever given to asking “what happens when networking goes too far?”
There are many people who have firm boundaries established in their relationship and others who understand the risks of affairs but there are far too many people relying on an inherent “I know where the line is” approach to affairs which can lead to disastrous results.
There is good news. Workplace affairs are easily avoidable and happily married employees perform better. An affair awareness seminar can help your employees too:
- Learn to avoid common workplace risks
- Develop effective personal boundaries
- Enhance their communication skills to optimise peer networking
Awareness is key, protect your employees and safeguard your bottom line.