Post Academic

A Post Academic’s Guide to the Office: Romance

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on November 1, 2010
Tags: , , ,

post academicThis week I’ll be providing tips to post academics who may be navigating a Hamster office for the first time. Some rituals will be new to you, and they haven’t been covered in Hamster books, nor are they as droll as the issues that arise on “The Office.”

We’ll start with a frequent Hamster World issue: the office romance. Arnold has noted before that academics tend to breed with academics. I met my own spouse while in grad school at UCI. Pairing up is seen as normal, or at least inevitable. Even a few professors start fishing in the grad student dating pool, though some are more successful than others.

If you are moving from academia to the Hamster World, you will soon discover that the Hamster Workplace is not–I repeat, not–a good place to find a date, no matter what TV shows tell you. Why?

People become less attractive when you spend 8 hours a day with them. The dude who eats the stinky lunch every day of the week? The woman who is always shrieking about her computer problems yet who refuses to learn Ctrl-Alt-Delete? The guy who keeps mooching all your office supplies? The woman who left a diaphragm in the wastebasket of the ladies’ bathroom? (true story) No thank you! Romance requires a little distance. If you work a Hamster gig with someone, you’ll feel like you’ve been married for 50 years, even if you’ve only worked together for a week.

More reasons to be careful with love in the workplace after the jump! Comic book cover image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

HR will not be amused. You can get away with fraternization in your grad program because you are students and HR is too busy making sure everyone else is following the rules. A Hamster World HR person will be focused on you. Read your manual carefully if you start dating someone you’re working with because rules vary from company to company. Chances are, you won’t miss the rules because big companies make you attend seminars that tell you not to reach out and touch your colleagues.

If you can’t resist, you cannot act like you are together. At all. Ever, though you are bound to slip at some point. In a grad program, everyone seems equal, but it’s not the case in the Hamster World. But in the Hamster World there’s higher stakes. For starters, unless you’re working for the government, you’re not going to know what others are making. You’re not going to know as much about each other’s projects. Even if you have an unblemished moral track record, some office gossip is going to assume that you are sleeping your way up.

You will eventually need to change jobs if it gets serious. So the rest of the office is cool if you are dating, and you find that you and your partner are in it for the long haul. Congratulations! But prepare to send out your resume if one of you gets promoted or something changes in your workplace status. Any change in the power differential can disrupt your workplace and irritate former allies. You know how pissed off people get about spousal hires and academic nepotism? It applies in the Hamster World, too, only they are more likely to actually do something about it instead of talk behind your back.

Along those lines, the academic world and the Hamster World do share one common rule: Do not date outside your peer group. You don’t date the students you teach, and professors or bosses shouldn’t be hitting on you. Your subordinates are not your dating pool. Dating outside your peer group makes you look sleazy, even if your love is pure and it is not your intention. It may also reflect poorly on the object of your affection. If you are desperate for a date and can’t find anyone single in your peer group, put in a little effort and try

2 Responses to 'A Post Academic’s Guide to the Office: Romance'

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  1. James said,

    I can remember learning in a seminar about a prominent feminist theorist who methodically slept with graduate students as she saw the transmission of knowledge as fundamentally an erotic activity. She even wrote articles on her teaching method of sleeping with young women so as to make her scholarly points and to teach everyone a helpful pedagogical lesson.

    Yes, in the hamster world such antics, nor the theoretical body of knowledge you wish to use to support them, will not go unpunished. You’ve been warned.

    Always love the images, by the way

  2. Thanks for the reminder. See, this is why I think prof life seems FX-worthy — when you’re in it, you become oblivious to things that just won’t fly in the normal world!

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