What Movies Teach about Workplace Ethics, Harassment and Romance
Maria Grace, Ph.D.
business with “pleasure” has never been a recipe for a “happily
ever after” and sex in the workplace seems to cause pain more often
than satisfaction. Every year, an average of 15,000 claims are filed
for sexual harassment in the workplace. News headlines about sexual
scandals between prominent bosses and work subordinates provoke public
contempt and outrage. More families and couples split as a result of
an extramarital affair that one of the spouses began in the workplace;
and more psychotherapists treat patients experiencing the aftermaths
of a workplace romance gone sour. Such aftermaths may range from
feeling angry, confused, humiliated and depressed to having been fired
from the job, often without even a letter of recommendation.
Companies today are enforcing work dating policies, providing training
about work romance, or choosing to show lenience toward romantic
involvement among employees, so long as it doesn’t threaten
productivity and team effort. And yet, so many people are not clear
about the rules of romance at work. Still a taboo and a subject for
tabloid gossip, sex and romance at work is considered a thorny issue
most of us wish would go away.
Many of today’s movies reflect the issues of romance at work. Whether
you are an employer or employee, here is how to prepare your personnel
and yourself to deal with Cupid striking at the office:
The Definition of Sexual Harassment:
harassment occurs when one employee makes continued, unwelcome sexual
advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical
conduct of a sexual nature, to another employee, against his or her
wishes. This unwanted behavior affects an individual's employment,
unreasonably interferes with this person’s work performance or
creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
film “Disclosure,” illustrates how sexual harassment is the abuse
of power that violates another person’s moral, ethical and emotional
boundaries. The films shows how a computer specialist is sued for
sexual harassment by a former lover turned boss, whose purpose is to
incriminate him and destroy both his career and his personal life.
you are being sexually harassed don’t stay silent hoping it will go
away. This behavior usually escalates if you don’t stop the harasser
with a firm, proactive stand. Call the person on their behavior
immediately, ask them to stop and warn them that you will report them
if they continue. If it continues, report the harassment. Your
employer has the responsibility to take each complaint seriously and
Appropriately with Sexual Advances from Coworkers:
sexual advance may be a straightforward expression of sexual
attraction to a coworker, a blunt invitation for a physical
relationship, or flirtatious behavior that has gone overboard.
the movies, Andy, the central character of “The 40-Year Old
Virgin”, neutralizes his female boss’s advances by staying loyal
to his values. His boss understands. When he gets promoted, it is not
because of sexual favors but because of his job performance.
life often resembles the movies. If you stay loyal to your values and
keep your work priorities straight, you too can achieve success
without losing your integrity.
Your Work First, then Your Sex Fantasies:
the film “A Time to Kill” a young and handsome Mississippi lawyer is handling with admirable strength a tough criminal case and a
very attractive assistant. Even though the sexual chemistry between
them sizzles, he chooses to channel his passion into the case, which
you ever feel irresistibly attracted to a coworker, before you give
into your fantasies do a reality check. Examine how it would affect
your work if you consummated your sexual attraction. If you realize
that it would jeopardize your work—and your relationship with your
colleague—then you should honor your work and look for a different
outlet for your fantasies.
ever Start An Extramarital Affair in The Workplace:
“The Firm,” young attorney Mitch is the victim of a corrupt law
firm that throws its employees into extramarital affairs and then
blackmails them to extort their loyalty. He has a company-induced
affair that costs him his marriage and his sanity. The movie has a
happy ending only because Mitch fights very hard to recover the love
of his wife.
real life, extramarital affairs in the workplace never have a happily
ever after. Besides the agony of being discovered at home, the parties
involved live with the constant stress of being discovered at work.
When this happens be prepared to cut your losses. And those losses may
include your reputation, your family, your job, the person you have
the affair with, or all of the above.
You Date A Colleague, Set Post-Breakup Rules from The Beginning:
the classic film “The Apartment,” C.C. Baxter climbs the career
ladder by lending his apartment to his boss for his extramarital
trysts. He’s also falling in love with his coworker, Fran. All seems
to work fine, until he discovers that Fran is also his boss’s
mistress. How will they all emerge from such perplexed dynamics and
keep their jobs?
real life, a romance with a coworker always has some impact on your
work life. Once you know each other intimately, you become more
vulnerable to each other. This is why you must draw up a contract in
which you specify how you will preserve your working relationship,
should your personal relationship not last. Sign it and honor it, in
case you break up. It’s a smart thing to do. You don’t want a
situation like Baxter and Fran’s.
Away from Office Sex Gossip:
the French comedy “The Closet,” the main character François
spreads false rumors at work that he is gay, hinting that he will sue
the management if they fire him for sexual discrimination. As sex
gossip spreads in the office it creates havoc in his coworkers’
careers and personal lives with consequences that vary from hilarious
real life, you should avoid office havoc by staying away from gossip
about your coworkers’ sexual orientation and sex life. When a
coworker confesses to you an affair with another coworker, politely
decline to become their sounding board. Protect your self and your
job. You never know how office sex gossip may backfire or used against
you, whether you have generated it or not.
Cupid Strikes at The Office, Keep Your Romance Private.
the movie “Kindergarten Cop”, tough guy detective Kimble goes into
a school undercover as a kindergarten teacher to investigate a case.
He ends up falling in love with Joyce, another school teacher who is
also the very subject of his investigation. But this is true love and
it changes Kimble’s destiny. Leaving the police force, he returns to
Joyce and her school as real kindergarten teacher.
real life, if you have found your soul mate in a certain coworker and
you want your budding romance to have a happily ever after, you must
keep it private until it becomes a serious, mutual commitment. Never
transfer in the workplace personal conflicts with the person you date.
Always respect each other as coworkers. Make your romance public only
when it’s a solid relationship that you know will last. Then, it’s
a time to celebrate. Congratulations! You have shown discretion and
how to navigate successfully the dark waters of romance in the
workplace, should be part of your job training. Follow these
guidelines as rules of conduct to ensure your career and safeguard
your personal life, every time Cupid’s arrows threaten to pierce
your bubble at the office.
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