Office romance or official harassment

By The Spectator/Merari Alomele

When males and females meet often, some form of emotional chemistry preponderates. It cannot be explained in mere words; and it is not noticeable to start with. At any rate, proximity engenders the release of emotional neutrons that inadvertently bond males and females.

Invariably, they start misbehaving and the outcome can be socially acidic or alkaline.

It can be termed office romance or official harassment depending on the acid test of the relationship. The two variants exist in all organisations, in the churches, lorry parks, anywhere males and females happen to meet. In some universities it is the surest way to a First Class Honours, no matter how daft you are.

It has been said that very beautiful choir girls sometimes become clear targets not only of choirmasters, but the Oga himself. The Oga might be a Reverend Minister or pastor; or a Bishop, Archbishop, Doctor Archbishop to the Second Power, otherwise known as Oga Kwatakwata! The lord of lords!

The higher the post of Oga, the cooler the choir girl is likely to condescend if she is up to compromising her Christian principles on the altar of expediency and the will of Oga. The two are likely to end at the gate of Heaven one day to answer charges preferred against them. But that is not of immediate concern. After all, every law is subject to amendment. God is a merciful God; didn't the Bible say that?

In the offices, romance often takes the forms of verbal endearments to those others admire; chatting, negotiating dates and weekend rendezvous. It hardly goes beyond that, because work must be done. There is time for everything.

It means, therefore, that the preparatory work for romance is done in the office, especially during break-time, but the consummation is after office hours.

Of course, when there is romance between two unmarried workers, it is nothing of great concern to the organisation, so long as their romantic liaison does not affect their work and total output. It is only when that relationship takes away working time that the establishment must start raising eyebrows.

Indeed, in some workplaces love relationships between staff are banned. That in itself is dangerous, because when it becomes official policy to ban workplace relationships, workers find ingenious ways to steal time to perpetuate such relationships. However, if it is open (not against the rules) the tendency will not be there to steal time exclusively to chat.

Business can even be mixed with little love chats and the organisation is better off in the final analysis.

The question is this: Is it ethical to have a fiancé or fiancée at your workplace? The debate can be endless. Some will argue that it cannot be prevented so long as males and females work together. Others will say it should be outlawed because it can be counter-productive to the objectives of any organisation.

Others will even go further to state that some relations are not mutually expressive. Some only exist under duress. In other words, a boss may force a subordinate into a relationship. So the element of sexual harassment comes in.

The problem with "sexual harassment" is that, it has never been properly defined. People have expressed all sorts of opinions about sexual harassment. It has been said that even if you look at a woman admiringly, you are sexually harassing her. What of if the woman looks at a man lovingly! Is that sexual appreciation or harassment?

There was this case in a Kumasi hospital where a mortuary attendant commended a female doctor for her wonderful behind, and promptly got the sack. It was reasoned that even if the doctor had a stunning backside, it was not the official duty of the attendant to comment upon. May be, the attendant was permitted to admire tantalizing female shapes, but not to open his big mouth.

Of course, it is necessary for every organisation to have ethical rules on staff behaviour, so that both males and females can work in an environment that is regulated by dos and don'ts, so as not to feel harassed. However, it must all be spelt out properly for all to know the limits.

For instance, if it is an offence not to look at a female two times within a minute or so, it must be specified. But the question is how to prove that a man has unethically admired a woman two times within regulation time. Should there be extra-time allowances.

What will in the end happen if an organisation is scrupulously regimented; will it be easy or stressful for workers? In truth, some females feel good when their male counterparts offer endearments.
"You look good today in your attire” or, "What's the name of that wonderful hairdo?"

On the flip, as yours truly, Kwame Alomele, has sometime back been told, "You look sexy in that baby shirt, but it's too small." Should I see my lawyer to file for sexual harassment?

Well, some organisations are extremely business-minded and would insist there is no room for such niceties. It is work, work and nothing but work. When you see something good looking, close one eye and move on! Don't stop to admire it.

In the final analysis, it is a fine balance of the rules as against the convention that can make for a happy working environment that is stress-free to make for job satisfaction.

When the working environment is too tense with too many dos and don'ts, staff get stressed out and output decreases.

The rules must exist for discipline, but there must be room for little liberties.

Credit: The Spectator/Merari Alomele [Email: [email protected]