You and Your Office Romance! The REAL Story!

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 ( 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

Why Aren’t There More Blacks In Sales? I Will Give You 6 Reasons!

Sales Representative Job Description– Individual needed to convince others to do something that they otherwise would not do! Job Duties - To make this happen, you need to be able to create interest, develop relationships, clarify the product/service and its uses, close the deal, and service the customer.  Not capable of being done by a machine or robot.


Why Aren’t There More Blacks in the Sales Profession? As a Black sales professional, or an aspirant one, you may have wondered the answer to this question.  As the question is intriguing, I attempted to research it on the basis of items written and published.  There is not much discussion in print. The only citation evident appears to have been a doctoral work done in the late ‘70s.  As that is somewhat stale I will pose some observations on this issue for 2011. In a profession that is “rubber meets the road” for most organizations involved in manufacturing and distributing durable goods, providing financial services, and others looking to put their products/services in the hands of business to B2B end users, a simple observance would tell you that Blacks are underrepresented. There are many reasons.  I will outline some major ones:

Many organizations don’t seek out Black Sales Professionals to hire – There are organizations that do recognize the benefit of the Black sales professional and actively hire and recruit.  More organizations need formal recruitment programs.  In some cases it is just racial discrimination.  As I advise below (Difficult Assignments) don’t fall into the trap of being “dedicated” to reaching the Black B2B market, unless your product is primarily used there.  You need every opportunity to succeed.

Lack of Confidence – Based on the fact that most buyers are white, the Black sales professional often has many concerns regarding acceptance.  This can be a serious barrier.  Mentoring, training, and general support can help here.

Difficult Assignments – Often when a Black sales professional is hired, they are more likely to get a difficult assignment.  Sometimes that assignment is related to an area or territory which has languished, or a company trying to reach Black businesses.   Black sales professionals should be very clear about the territory that they are entering and what is expected upon hire and deployment.  Give yourself a fair chance.

Lack of mentoring - It is well observed that we need more mentors, and there are many programs out there attempting to provide more mentoring.  We need to increase this activity to fill the void, as it is obvious that there are deficiencies in this regard.  Organizations need to provide more mentoring, yet mentoring from outside the organization can be effective as well.

Lack of Training and Support - Organizations who hire should attempt to provide the proper training and support. As they have made the first move, now they need to give the Black sales professional the opportunity to succeed.  Black Sales professionals should request details about training, and ongoing support prior to accepting a position.

Retention of Black Sales Professionals is Difficult – Much of this is based on what is above.  A solid Black sales professional has many talents, and if thwarted by the points shown above, they will move to other sales positions, and possibly to other occupations.  Having them move out of sales positions keeps the numbers anemic.

The Professional Sales Outlook 2012 – 2018 The importance of this issue is based on the fact that as many occupations languish, professional sales is projected to grow through 2018. Let’s quickly look at the number of sales positions available.   The source of this information is the United States Department of Labor. This link will take you to the actual report.  This report projects through 2018. A quick look at the sales profession in this jobs report will show the following information:

Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Mfg 1,973,000

Sales Whsl and Mfg (Excl Tech and Sci)     1,540,000

Sales Whsl and Mfg (Tech and Sci)               433,000

The jobs pay well in the overall also:

  • Wage estimates ex tech/sci– Median $51,920, with the 75th percentile showing $74,310 in the overall.  This is wage, and does not include commissions or bonuses.
  • Wage estimates tech/sci – Median $71,300 with the 75th percentile showing $100,910 overall.  This is wage, and does not include commissions or bonuses.

Total sales employment for 2018 is projected to rise to 2,116,400 by 2018 for a 7% projected increase. All of the numbers shown are from the May 2009 DOL Report. Almost all sales positions have some arrangement regarding bonus or commission, although some sales positions are commission only.

In Summary In a country that has a reduced focus on manufacturing products, the occupation of sales has increased  in importance.  This importance comes from selling US manufactured goods as well as goods manufactured outside the US to businesses in our country.  This is basically the essence of distribution. You will note that the positive effects of mentoring are mentioned in the major areas above.  You can access Black Sales Journal 1/27, Do You Need A Mentor, Actually You Probably Need Two! Also, as we talk about  finding that new sales job in Black Sales Journal 1/24, 5 Suggested Internet Sites For Finding That New Sales Job. If you are an accomplished sales professional, consider mentoring an upcoming Black Sales professional.  It is the type of giving back that we really need. Thanks for reading, and your comments are always welcome.  Contact me at