Real office romances can be as dangerous as drunken affairs with coworkers — and sometimes just as inevitable. From The Intern Files: How to Get, Keep, and Make the Most of Your Internship, Jamie Fedorko guides interns through lust and love in the workplace.
This is risky business. It’s a little less stressful to hook up with another intern than with an actual employee, but dangerous nonetheless. First of all, considering most interns are somewhere between eighteen and twenty-two, mistakes will be made, and feelings will get hurt. While hooking up is a part of life, bringing that part of life into your office, especially an office where you’re fairly unimportant, can be disastrous (or mind-blowingly exciting if you do it right!).
There are two kinds of office hookups: mistakes (usually one-time drunken affairs), and real office romances. The key is to keep it cool. In other words, nobody should know but the two people involved. Since you’ll be dealing with all the things that come with a new relationship (lust, passion, long nights spent reading poetry, lying through your teeth, and ignoring all of your friends for a few months), you’ll have to curb your enthusiasm while you’re at the office. For example, if you’re eating together every day and are perhaps mildly flirtatious, that’s fine, but people will probably get it.
An intern relationship is generally a huge taboo to most employers. Certainly some will be less rigid than others, but if you find yourself actually dating a fellow intern, be supercautious unless you know nobody will mind. That means that your supervisor has literally pulled you aside and said, “I know you and Megan are seeing each other, and that’s fine, so long as it doesn’t affect your work.” The second an employer does start to see your productivity drop, the consequences could be drastic.
If you want to be taken seriously, the best thing to do, even if you have real feelings for someone you’re interning alongside, is to simply keep it to yourselves. Tell each other how you feel once you leave the office.
What about meaningless little hookups? First of all, though this is not a book on relationships, it’s safe to say that almost no hookups come without some kind of baggage, meaning, or bullshit. That’s not to say that there aren’t people who enjoy the random one-night stand, but hooking up with a fellow intern means you’ll be seeing your fellow tongue-twister again very soon, whether you like it or not.
It’s an old story. One person wants something more than the other person does, or someone gets hurt, or one person totally ignores the other person. While a “real” relationship isn’t something you can con¬trol happening, you can control having a random hookup with poten¬tially damaging consequences. The best advice: Keep it in your pants. Unless, before you even lock lips, you’ve discussed how you’ll handle it after the fact.
That kinda takes the fun out of it, though, huh? Maybe, but if you have a morsel of self-control, you’ve got to try and be wise in these situ¬ations. This isn’t a college classroom in which you’ve hooked up with half the room and nobody knows or cares who’s doing what outside of class. This is work. This is a whole day spent with someone who you may or may not have wanted to hook up with in the first place.
Think about the consequences and the reality of such a situation. Random hookups always breed awkwardness; people get jealous, distant, spiteful, vulnerable, or too horny to control. You have to be supercareful if you’re going to bring those elements into the workplace. Even though random hookups with fellow interns are not recommended, neither is hooking up with the ex-girlfriend you hate on a drunken night out with friends; sometimes things just happen. So prepare for the worst.
Okay, so you feel some sexual tension with one of the other interns, but you don’t know if you should approach the situation with the stan¬dard return-of-the-flirts because of the repercussions. But you also think the person’s really attractive, and you don’t want to blow a chance at something. Time to grow up. Although one of the most enjoyable parts of hookups is the excitement that comes along with the not-having-to-think aspect, unfortunately, if you want to hook up with someone in the office, you’re going to have to think before you act. Sad, isn’t it?
- Do I really like this person?
- Is this really worth it?
- Is this person the type to go into the office and tell everybody?
- If people do find out, will I be let go?
- Can I just approach the person and discuss it beforehand?
- If I do that, will I even be attracted to the person by the time the conversation ends?
- Can I trust this person enough to know that they won’t somehow use this against me later?
- Can I handle it?
- Can I afford another drink? This is really getting confusing!
See? You have to put so much effort into the initial thought that it’s probably better to wait until the internship concludes. On the other hand, if things get out of control and end up happening anyway, here’s a worst-case scenario list of how things will probably go down after the fact.
- Someone lets the cat out of the bag.
- The other party denies it.
- The person who let the cat out of the bag is mortified because the other person won’t admit to hooking up with them.
- Other interns get involved.
- The level of gossip reaches catastrophic proportions.
- Going to your internship becomes more about dealing with the person you regretfully hooked up with than it does about the work itself.
- Your supervisor gets tired of dealing with little kids.
- Good riddance!
Now, was it really worth all this madness? It couldn’t have been that good!
The only way two people can casually hook up while interning is if they’re both extremely mature. That means being on the same page about what the hookup means before it happens. If two people decide that they really like each other, but think it would be wiser to put things on hold until after the internship, fine. If two people decide that they used, or are using, each other strictly for physical reasons, fine. But never let it affect your work.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jamie Fedorko, author of The Intern Files: How to Get, Keep, and Make the Most of Your Internship (Copyright © 2006 by Jamie Fedorko), steers prospective interns along every step of the journey. He’ll help you with the basic stuff — hunting down internship leads, acing the interview, and making a great first impression. But his book takes it one step further, into understanding office politics and social etiquette, dealing with impossible bosses, making the most of time-wasting assignments, and drawing a line between being helpful and being a doormat. Hilarious, wry, and wise, The Intern Files will teach you how to enjoy the view from the bottom of the ladder — and start climbing rapidly to the top.