Ten years ago, the biggest romance on television was an office romance: a The Office romance. Every week, millions of viewers watched coworkers Jim and Pam flirt, grow close, and cast pining looks toward each other, until—FYI: spoilers ahead—the two shared a kiss and eventually dated, got married, and had children together.
The Office remains charming and hilarious—not to mention instructive for workforce compliance, in terms of what not to do—but it’s difficult to imagine that Jim and Pam’s relationship would play out the same way if the show aired today.
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have brought new attention to the pervasive problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. Many people are beginning to reevaluate workplace conduct they would have considered “harmless” flirtation just a few years ago.
Although Pam and Jim entered their relationship consensually, a writing team in 2018 would need to reckon with the message they could be sending to would-be Jims who use a fictional love story to justify their behavior toward unreciprocating Pams. Then again, we have Michael Scott as counterpoint.
Point is: employees at all levels need to be aware that real life is not a sitcom. There are real power dynamics and real experiences of harassment and assault to take into account.
If you’ve been reading our ongoing series about workplace harassment, you understand the magnitude of these issues. Given the current climate, it’s no surprise that office romance has reached a 10-year low, as CNBC reports. But with Valentine’s Day ahead, now is the time to pay special attention to the distinction between workplace camaraderie and workplace harassment, and to stay vigilant in addressing behaviors that may cross the line.
Here are 3 articles to read before you think about breaking out the candy hearts: