It’s lunchtime at work – Roshni asks Shravan if he is ready to go out for lunch. Even before he could say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, Roshni has already taken the lunchbox out of Shravan’s bag, and is poking him to follow her to the recreation room. All of their colleagues actually have become used to with this kind of intimacy between the two. Nope, they are not dating each other, and neither of them is single. According to experts, it’s a new term that has been taking over the workplace relationship – it’s being a work-spouse to someone. In the movie ‘Steve Jobs’, a Hollywood film loosely based on the life of the Apple co-founder, the relationship shown between the protagonist and his marketing director Joanna Hoffman is the classic example of ‘work-spouse’.
What is Work-Spouse?
Work Spouse refers to your co-worker, usually of the opposite sex with whom you share a close and exclusive platonic bond within the confines of office but without any kind of physical intimacy. Since office hours are getting stretched, this kind of friendships is blossoming in the teams. Working for more than 7-9 hours daily creates a certain level of comfort, and human beings look for that emotional connect with a person. It’s for sure that you cannot work with zombies at work – you will not like if you come to work and you don’t engage in any stimulating discussions, not exchange pleasantries, not share jokes, not share information – this doesn’t happen.
A survey conducted by Vault.com, a media company for career information, found that 32% of 693 respondents from a variety of industries reported having an office husband or wife. However, working closely with someone through the week, and months, going for lunch, taking tea-breaks, sharing professional hiccups at work, talking about your aspirations, there has to be some kind of a emotional intimacy. Keeping this relationship strictly professional becomes the key here.
Here are the five tips to keep your work-spouse strictly at the professional level:
Don’t share intimate personal stories with your work-spouse
There is always a level of comfort with a few people at work. Over time with passing months and probably a few years, you develop a certain bond – you can say things to them and they won’t mind. There are cases of work friendships which continue to blossom even after one has left that organization for better opportunities. But there is a line – a very thin line which is essential to keep since your relationship is absolutely professional. Sharing intimate details about your personal life might not be the right thing to do. You can share a few anecdotes but sharing where you go shopping, what kind of an argument you had with your parents or a partner are probably things you need to stay away from discussing.
Dating is simply no-no
Don’t indulge in any kind of recreational activities with the work-spouse. Going out for movie or dinner, just the two of you is not the ideal situation. This creates confusion, and also gives fodder to useless banter at work. You will be part of office gossip before you know it. Going out with the team for lunch/dinner is fine.
Don’t entertain personal phone calls during weekends
Weekends are for family, friends – unless urgent work come calling. It’s advisable not to talk on private personal issues with your work spouse when you are on a holiday, on a break, during weekends. More you include your work-spouse in your personal space, more it becomes difficult to handle a ‘disaster’ that might start brewing. The Captivate Office Pulse Work Spouse survey shows that 13% respondents said they had a personal interaction with their work spouse that they later regretted.
If your work-spouse commits a mistake, treat him/her like you would to a normal colleague
Do not indulge in preferential treatment to your work-spouse. Since the person is pretty close to you at work, what happens is you ‘can’ overlook the mistake that she/he commits at times. But make sure the same mistake by some other person will also be overlooked. Have a same standard for everyone. If your work-spouse has done something which has impacted your work, do let them know (if it involves the team, then tell him/her in front of them).
Don’t always include your work-spouse in your projects
All important projects should be equally distributed. Just because you trust your work-spouse, that doesn’t mean all the meaty projects should involve him/her. Yes, you do have a certain level of comfort with him/her, but you should give opportunity to others to solve it. And in case of any urgency/or goof-up, you can always take assistance from experts, including your work spouse.
Being a work-spouse is not a taboo. Employees can engage in such a relationship, but keeping that professional relationship professional is important for one’s career.