I surface this great topic again. A couple of years ago I started this topic as a result of a survey by an organization called Vault. Vault’s 2011 Office Romance Survey (Vault.com) was telling and I would suggest that any updated version will be just as indicting. The 2011 report indicated that 59% of all employees have engaged in an office relationship. If this is close to true, there is a lot of romancing going on.
I would like to try to give you some reasons that Black professional might want to avoid that temptation, especially if you are in the sales profession.
The Office Relationship and the Sales Professional
An office relationship is so common, yet reveals the greatest of pitfalls for any sales professional, especially the Black sales professional. Any relationship is an investment of time and effort; time is finite, and effort measurable. A sales professional is evaluated based on success in meeting one’s goals, and when there are shortcomings, the extracurricular activities that are in clear view are then viewed in a different light. They then become a focus.
The burden of sales is its measurability. It is the day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month measurability of professional sales that generates scrutiny. Often there is no one individual who knows when you are working, or…well, dating. In sales it comes with the territory; since there is no time clock, only results.
With all of this in mind, overt, or supposedly covert dating opens you to potential criticism. If your numbers are not there, it is assumed that your relationship is getting in the way. If your numbers are there, it is ‘obvious’ that the numbers could be better.
Couple the above issues with the fact you are Black and very much subject to the perceptions of others and you have an interesting problem. If those who believe the perception that you are putting romance before sales efforts are managers, it surely will come back against you.
Yes, this is a touchy subject, yet true. Being Black in a predominantly white organization leaves you open to be subjected to the perceptions of many, most importantly the sales managers and the general managers. In an atmosphere where you need as level ground as possible, the last perception that you need is that you are acting as Romeo, or Juliet on company time.
Some Simple Suggestions
I would suggest that you avoid relationships in the workplace. Do I believe that most of you will listen to me? Frankly, I don’t. If you are going to date in the workplace, I throw out these few points:
- Know your company’s policy on office relationships – This can keep you from a fatal error. Yes, many companies have a policy, and you might want to know it before it is used on you.
- Recognize the harassment exposure – Think it over real well. If things do not go well, anything you say or do may come back to haunt you! Most relationships are short term and it is the aftermath of a relationship that triggers harassment claims.
- Be extremely discreet – There should be no outward expressions at the workplace or on company time. You should know that if you discuss it with anyone, it will be ‘publicized’ by text messages, tweets, email, and general office conversation, not to mention cell phone pictures.
- Social Media will work against you – Anything you post, or she posts on social media sites can be evidence of illicit or clandestine activities.
- Above all know your exit strategy – If it is not working out the way you need, how are you going to get out without a nuclear explosion. It might be good to have that conversation and agreement at the beginning of any office relationship.
It should go without saying that no managers should be dating subordinates but I will throw it in here as well. Nothing will shorten a career faster that this type of activity. Don’t even think about it!
Of Particular Note – The Interracial Relationship
As much as things have changed in the last 50 years, of particular note is the interracial relationship in the workplace. Something that happens almost commonly in the “real world” still brings extreme scrutiny in the workplace. Thus there is a double jeopardy for the man or woman who has an interracial relationship in the workplace. That double jeopardy is based on the fact that the Black sales professional could be damaged by an office relationship, no matter who the partner is. Additional scrutiny comes to bear when the workplace relationship is interracial.
You are at work to make money and to build a career. Both can be subject to the whims of others in the workplace. All of you already know that when it comes to your career and your money, the possibility of a short-term relationship could be very expensive.
Your comments are welcome. Contact me at Michael.Parker@BlackSalesJournal.com.