Gossip causes personal and professional distress when love blooms in the office

WORKING WOMAN

June 13, 1993|By Niki Scott | Niki Scott,Universal Press Syndicate

It's hard to curb your passion and control your own behavior when you're in love with someone at work. And it's downright impossible to curb or control the way other people may react to your relationship.

Two women who've run into 1960s attitudes about 1990s relationships at work contacted me this week. The first, a 42-year-old secretary, talked to me in Bangor, Maine; the second, a 26-year-old sales executive, wrote from Orlando, Fla.

"I've read your columns about the way people should act if they're having a personal relationship with someone at work. Now I wish you'd write a column about how other people should act when this is going on," said the secretary.

"I'm in love with a wonderful man in my office who happens to be my boss, and the people I work with are so jealous and judgmental, they're about to ruin not only our relationship, but our careers.

"We didn't mean to fall in love, but we did -- and we knew from the start that we wouldn't be able to hide our relationship for long; this is still a small town, and everybody knows everybody else's business," she said.

"But what we didn't anticipate was that our relationship would somehow be so fascinating to the other women in my department that they wouldn't be able to get their nasty little minds off it long enough to get their own work done!

"We aren't fools," she added. "We're two people who have lived alone a long time and finally found the kind of love neither of us thought we'd ever find again.

"And we've been very careful, very discreet. We don't talk about anything but business at work. We make it a point not to have lunch together. We've tried very hard to act just the way we did before we had this relationship -- not an easy thing to do.

"But the women I work with seem to have nothing better to do than watch us, gossip about us and poke fun at us," she said, stabbing the same french fry over and over.

"How can people be so cruel? Are their own lives so empty that they

have to feed on other people's? Or are they just jealous?"

It's too bad she can't meet the sales executive in Orlando, who wrote: "I've been in love for over a year with a man I'll call 'Ted.' We work together, and until six months ago, I would have said we were handling the complications quite well.

"But the other salespeople in our office seem to be incapable of accepting our relationship without acting like giggling eighth-graders or reporters for the tabloid press. You'd think we were Charles and Diana!

"The one thing we can't seem to get, in this supposedly enlightened year of 1993, is any kind of understanding or compassion, or even a fair shake.

"Now 'Ted's' boss has called him in and said that as a couple, we're becoming a disruptive influence in the office. He didn't give 'Ted' any kind of ultimatum, but we can see the handwriting on the wall: One or both of us may have to resign if this gossip doesn't die down.

"If you print this letter, maybe some people will take a long, hard look at what their immature attitudes and their loose tongues can do to innocent people."

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