Saturday, May 15, 2010

Office Romance??

An incidence that took place long back keeps coming back every now and then. I belong to an older generation and my career has not been particularly difficult so I had it easy. Not so the current bunch of ambitious young women. They have goals in mind and work hard to reach them. In the course of their interaction with their male colleagues they often find themselves in unpleasant situations. How much of the blame should be accorded to them is my question.

Take for instance the case of PP. She landed a job in far off Ahmedabad in a small company. Her job was interesting as well as challenging. The average age of her company’s employees was around 25. Her boss was just 2 years older than her. It was the culture in their office to call the boss by his first name. Western influence perhaps?? Everyone including her boss treated PP as a friend rather than a subordinate. So when her parents visited her for the first time she was at the station to receive them. It was a Sunday and the train being late, she asked her boss to give her company while she waited for them to arrive. In the days that followed there was considerable interaction between PP’s parents and her office colleagues. They all seemed a decent lot and nothing seemed out of place even to their experienced eyes. So when they started looking out for a suitable match for their daughter they were surprised when two of her colleagues started harassing her - one being her boss himself. The girl herself was at wit’s end and found it easier to tell the boss that her parents were just looking for a suitable match but had not found one yet, rather than tell him outright that she was not interested in him and preferred to marry a person chosen by her parents. This in fact acted as a deterrent to the other colleague who withdrew himself on hearing about the interest shown by his boss in her. Trouble started when she finally got engaged to a person of her parent’s choice. The boss threatened to make life hell for her if she dared to marry someone else. She had no option but to ask her parents to intervene. Finally after ascertaining that she really had no interest in him, they spoke to him as well as his parents and sorted things out. Her fiancĂ© was informed but he took it in his stride and did not worry too much. Today she is married and happily settled in Dubai having put the incidence behind her. But the whole episode left me wondering who was to be blamed in all this. According to her parents there was nothing in her behavior that suggested that she was even remotely interested in him. How then did he get the impression that she was?

The answer perhaps lay in the explanation given by a senior colleague of mine. According to him, girls may not think much of getting odd chores done by a male colleague. An innocent request of getting a few pages photocopied can put ideas into a guy’s head. He says that he very often sees a girl chatting with 3 or 4 male colleagues or class - mates. One never knows which of them would be hoarding romantic ideas about her even without her knowledge. It is therefore in her own interest that a girl needs to draw a line and make her position very clear. But then the girl’s fiancĂ© did not worry too much which is again indicative that such incidences do happen and no one worries too much about it. With more and more children taking up jobs in distant places I suppose this too is part of their career experience.


Kk said...

a nice thought indeed......fact well said in the last ..i agree....
i started thinking of a girl when she asked me to get biscuit packet since it was late for a session.....but lately found myself in the wrong place :)

Anonymous said...

hello HHG, after long time reading your blog again. interesting article .... i think it is difficult to ascertain whose responsibility is it in such cases. However, i would believe that while some one talks to a colleague of opposite sex or is friendly with the person would not necessarily mean intimacy of a certain kind, but at the same time it is most possible to figure out the feelings of the other person towards self and then take the necessary steps i often see people feeling very surprised at this sudden expression of intimacy and i wonder how come no early warning signals were not detected. so i guess the responsibility lies at both end.

Anonymous said...

Nice post, HHG. It feels so good to be back and dropping by your blog.

I have been in that predicament of PP many times. It is not her fault. How can she be when the other guy had ideas in his mind? :-)

Renu said...

Today's freedom has many badvanteges, but so many hearts are breaking also because of was shown in Kuch kuch hota gha.. close friendship between a boy and girl is always clouded...and since girls are today taking lot of liberty, they will have to face this negative side also..her fiancee was a strong person, otherwise there would have been bigger problems.

I always believe that there should be limits and boundaries.

chennaimoms said...

I also go with renu statement.For everything there are some boundries and rules.i have seen some interesting article realted to this topic just check it out and give your comment

Usha said...

I have come across women colleagues like the girl you are talking about..
but I feel it would be unjust to attribute it to the 'new age career experience'.

We come across opportunist men and women at different walks of life. People who wouldn't mind going to any extreme to get their work done. They dont mind using power, politics, pressure, or even charm or plain flirting (which some girls use as an easy route to get things done). But then, some routes have these pitfalls, like the one you just wrote about.

pal said...

Nice article HHG :-) Though, I feel, Indian society is a very frustrated one , at large. Boys and girls dont always get to hang out, so they are sex-starved (sorry for being so blunt). The moment there is a gesture of friendship , they (both genders, I mean), take it otherwise. Also, we idolise love and denigrate sex/lust. Though, in reality, we idolise both!!! So there is this confusion in the mind of people, and they try to camouflage lust with love. Which all ends in misery!!

WhatsInAName said...

I really love the way you draw your readers into discussing these day today topics.
That aside :), I actually will not put the whole blame on the girls boss. I agree with Usha that an innocent light flirtation for getting the work done can lead to such problems. Maybe unknowingly , the girl did invite the trouble. There is a thin line when it comes to dealing with colleagues of opp sex and its the responsibility of an individual not to cross it. I am also surprised that the girl could not sense any overtures from her boss. Either she is too smart or too innocent.

Hip Grandma said...

Kk;welcome here and it was nice to hear your side of the story. i too feel that perception of boys and girls to a situation differs to an extent.

sharbori21:I don't think that the girl did not understand. she tried not to make it an issue as long as she could manage for whatever reason.

Jay: Not only you but every girl who has to interact withmale colleagues may find herself in a similar situation. there are instances where the girl does not understand but there are also cases where she prefers not to understand.

renu:I agree that there should be limits and boundaries but who sets them? society or the individual? True there are negative implications and one has to face them if a situation backfires.

chennaimoms:thanks for the link. i'll check it soon.

Usha: commenting here for the first time so welcome. But you are not new to me. i've read your comment elsewhere. Unfortunately what you say is true in some cases. Girls do use the special consideration shown to them to their advantage. But in the case mentioned by me the girl was in a predicament not knowing how and where to draw the line. i don't think she meant to flirt her way to progress.

pal:The Indian society has had its share of romantic experiences snce the days of Kalidasa's Shakuntalam. In the most conservative families we've had cousins nursing a soft corner for each other in a subtle way. Flirting with the opposite sex is nothing new. it is the exposure that one gets these days to interact with members of the opposit sex that makes it an ugly situation in a few cases. in most it is not even taken seriously.

whatsinaname:I guess the girl should have made her stand clear evenif only in jest or casual talk. and it was not right of her to continue giving ideas to her boss just to keep the other fellow off.


vishesh said...

Ha...experience is a teaches us :)

Sue said...

It helps to talk about your life outside work from day 1, I find.

Male friends, prospective grooms, your husband, child, extended family.

It tells people that you're not easily victimised and also helps keep them from getting a false sense of their position in your life.

Poornima said...

I like what Sue says.