Why Sex With Boss Is a Bad Idea for Your Career

Why Sex With Boss Is a Bad Idea for Your Career

He may be attractive and give you all the right signals, but having sex with the boss is a bad idea and a potential career killer. You're not living in isolation with him on a desert island, but sharing a workplace where your illicit relationship affects everyone. Many companies have clear policies on office dating and while relationships between co-workers have become commonplace, an employee's affair with the boss still continues to be frowned upon. Even if it turns into something serious and long-lasting, chances are one of you will have to go.

Power Playmate

Look beyond the physical act of sex with your boss and you'll see that power is at the heart of the relationship. Writing for the Times Online, Susie Godson sums it up as "a power trip" and "a huge ego boost" and adds, "Peel away the perks and what exactly are you left with? "

The inequity of power, desire to associate with power or attain more power all factor into the situation. There's also the power that comes from flying in the face of convention and sampling forbidden fruit.

Stop and ask yourself: If he wasn't your boss, would you still be attracted to him? Are the excitement and passion based on the fact that although he has control over your life and career, you feel like you have control over him? Do you think that if you sleep with him, he'll fast-track you to the top or at least promote you or give you a raise? Or do you just like the buzz that follows you around the workplace because co-workers sense that there's something more to your relationship than supervisor and subordinate?

Sex as a Skill Set

Sex clouds everyone's judgment. You may have been hired because of your skills, your experience, your talent, drive, and enthusiasm. But when you're involved with the boss, you may find your competence in question. Opportunities that come your way, successes you achieve, goals you meet and exceed -- all may be perceived as arising out of your special relationship with the boss and not your own hard work. You may not get credit where credit is due.

And if you end up working for someone else in the same company, that person may be reluctant to believe that you've gotten to where you are based on merit alone. You'll have that relationship with your ex-boss hanging over your head, and it may stunt your career advancement under future supervisors.

"Some Girl or Another"

The odds are against an enduring relationship. And when it falls apart, it probably won't wrap itself up with all loose ends tucked in neatly and both parties acting like adults. If the two of you remain in the same workplace and he's still your boss, there'll be jealousy on one end or the other, and it's going to affect your professional relationship and judgment. He may stall your career out of spite, revenge, or simply because he can, or behave in ways that make it difficult to continue to work for him. Or you may have to sit back, bite your tongue, and watch him launch another steamy affair with someone new under him (in more ways than one.)

Because here's the painful truth: many bosses who sleep with their employees don't do it just once. They're serial subordinate seducers. As much as you'd like to think that you're special -- the irresistible one he broke all the rules for-it's probably not that way.

As journalist Dominique Jackson observed in her article "An Affair to Forget" in Marie Claire, she found out she wasn't the only one to fall for her sexy, dazzling boss when she had dinner with a colleague of his: "'Great guy. Excellent writer. Underrated, too,' said my companion. 'Trouble is, he always has some girl or other in tow. Usually one of the junior journalists or a secretary. I really don't know how his wife puts up with it.'"

No 'Employees With Benefits'

From a purely business standpoint, the relationship is a no-win situation for the company you work for, even if you end up together. Human resources professional Laurie Ruettimann, the founder of Punk Rock HR, says that companies frame the issue of 'dating' under Code of Conduct policies:

As an employee, you are not allowed to personally benefit from your role at the office at the expense of the organization. Therefore, you are not allowed to sleep with a subordinate and continue supervising his/her work. Additionally, most companies will not allow you to supervise your family members.

The way a 'friend with benefits' is a tricky relationship to manage, an 'employee with benefits' is a liability to the boss who has exceeded the bounds of appropriate behavior and has opened himself up to charges of sexual harassment, even if the sex was consensual. So sex with the boss jeopardizes his position as well as yours.

But just suppose it's the real thing? After all, according to the Times Online, four out of every ten people meet their spouses at the office. Let's say he's the one. Even if your wildest fantasies come true and you two get married, he cannot continue to supervise you. Someone's going to have to leave, and it's probably not going to be the boss.

Think Before You Act

Keep in mind that sex with the boss may poison any other potential future relationships with your co-workers. And since work continues to be the main way in which we meet, socialize with, and get to know people, that would shut the door to many opportunities, both platonic and romantic.

As Ruettiman points out, "I met my husband at work and we've been together for over a decade. My career wasn't impacted because I am not a drama queen. I used common sense and kept my private dalliances out of my professional role."

And finally, for those who say that it's sexist to assume the boss is male (since over 36 percent of managers and supervisors are female) and want to view this issue from the perspective of a boss who's female, the truth is there's little difference. The same rules apply.

The best advice for any boss, female or male, comes from Marty Nemko in his tips for workplace dating in U.S. News & World Report: "Think twice about a relationship with your supervisor… Think 10 times before getting involved with a subordinate."