February 6, 2008

Do you have a "work spouse"?

23% of employees in some poll said they did — they had someone at work who plays something like a spousal role, someone who's a source of "mental and emotional support" and even "bickering." And sex? Well, according to the article, they know where to draw the line, and they keep it "platonic." If you've got one of those relationships, here's the test:
• Would you behave the same way if your romantic partner were standing next to you?

• Are your flirtations consistent with the way you normally behave?

• Are you thinking about your "work spouse" while not at work?

• Do you compare your "work spouse" to your real romantic partner?
Those questions are from Heidi Reeder, associate professor of communication at Boise State University in Idaho, who thinks it's good to have a work spouse (who doesn't cross the line): "It's an esteem booster for both men and women to have a little flirtation in their day -- it makes them feel a little better, gives them a little more energy."

Surely, we can think of some better questions.

Does everyone in the office think you're having an affair?

Do you find yourself thinking: Thank God, it's Monday?

ADDED: Another question I thought of for the test:
  • Does this person look like someone you'd date if you were free?


MadisonMan said...

Oh brother.

So it sounds like what they're really asking: Do you have a friend at work? But that won't get press -- oh no! So let's call the friend a work spouse.

I have a shopping spouse, too, at the grocery store, and a workout spouse at the gym.

Pogo said...

Work spouse? Me? No.

I used to have a work mother-in-law, a work brother, and a work crazy neighbor. All of us working for the work Dad-with-narcissistic-personality-disorder.

Mostly now I have work cousins, distantly related. We see each other for rare events, like Christmas, awkwardly sharing a cup of cheap wine. But just one, so as not to look bad.

Paul Zrimsek said...

The TGIM people are probably less enthused about seeing the Work Spouse than they are about getting away from the Home Boss.

Middle Class Guy said...

Just when you thought research could not get any goofier. What will they think if next?

Kirk Parker said...

"Does everyone in the office think you're having an affair?"

Well, I just found out (after making a humorous and slightly salacious comment at work) that 2 previous employees were carrying on a long-running affair, including trysts in what would become my office. Everybody knew about it (I wasn't with the company at the time) and occasionally if folks were in the area on the weekend they'd swing by the office and see if certain cars were there...

Kind of a creepy spectator sport, if you ask me.

Trooper York said...

It's a lot worse when you have clients that get too dependant on you when they have to make choices. They have to stand on there own two feet. I keep telling them: "Look I ain't you’re father. Do what you want. Don't look to me to tell you it's all right." Office kids are the worst. Those little bastards.

Anthony said...

I'd actually heard the term "work boyfriend" a few years ago. It was used as the article says: Someone of the opposite sex you hang out with a lot at work, but it's not a romantic thing.

I would argue it's not just like having a good friend at work because the dynamic involved with the opposite sex is different, especially in the eyes of other people.

Many years ago I had what one would probably call an office girlfriend. We talked almost daily, went out to lunch a lot, etc., but it wasn't really flirtatious. I don't know if people thought we were a budding couple or not, but I wouldn't doubt it. We've both since left for other jobs but we still email and talk on the phone a lot, and exchange Christmas gifts over lunch every year. My wife knows all about her and it doesn't phase her since I've never shown any interest at all in her that way.

Though admittedly it helps that she's gained quite a few pounds over the years. . . .

rhhardin said...

I always liked Mondays. The cafeteria was open.

If your hobby is also your work, you're in and working on weekends, but there is no food.

John Tierney on strip clubs , that might offer a clue to what flirtation brings to a defeated office worker.

George said...

Don't forget the Office Mom...lots of those out there, too...

chuck b. said...

I guess I'm just a promiscuous slut.

Synova said...

I know people who have MMORPG spouses that aren't their real one.

And I've never seen it turn out good.

If you put that much energy into a relationship it has to *come* from somewhere.

Synova said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pogo said...

Harry's rule:
"Men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way."
When Harry Met Sally

chuck b. said...

Actually, if I'm a gay man, does that determine the gender and sexual orientation of my work spouse? Is a female work spouse just a bff? Are gays, lesbians, and transgendered systematically excluded from work-spousal marital bliss? Or, maybe everyone is bisexual at work.

I'm a bisexual polygamist. I'm into free love. I'm a Marin County-style swinger with a hot tub and a dime bag of coke.

chuck b. said...

Actually, homosexual coupling is the norm at work, isn't it? Heterosexual work spousery could mean the end civilization at work! Heterosexual work-lovers are demanding special rights. They need to make their case to the majority before the rest of us normal people accept it. Heterosexual work-lovers should stop trying to jam their perverted lifestyle down peoples' throats!

Freeman Hunt said...

I once worked with two people who I thought had that sort of relationship with each other. Later I found out that they were sleeping together the whole time and that one of the female's children may have actually been fathered by her "work spouse" rather than her actual spouse! With those two as my only frame of reference, I don't trust this "work spouse" thing.

I'm surprised that almost a quarter of employees reported having one. Sure, I've seen people bicker and people flirt, but generally not people who are close as the "mental and emotional support" would imply.

Troy said...

Do I get to keep my staples and pens if I change jobs or does half my work stuff go to her?

Christy said...

Of course! Work spouse, committee spouse, professional society spouse.... Flirting's fun.

rhhardin said...

Owing to cleaning out my desk, among 20 years' of desk drawer junk that wound up at home was a pair of stockroom scissors.

They're the best scissors I've ever had, it turns out. You'd never know it from the things you use scissors for at work.

Fight for those scissors. Let her have the stapler.

angry_white_male said...

I once had the best "work wife" a man could ask for. She was my age, pretty, well spoken, professional and a blast to be with. We were regular lunch partners, and we carpooled in together most days due to the proximity of our homes to each other and the long drive into work. The relationship was always professional and platonic and she actually made me look forward to coming into work and vice versa. During tough times we were each other's moral support as our real-life spouses just don't understand the dynamics of the office here and my wife is bored to tears when I talk about work - as I dread hearing about her day in graphic detail (I keep telling her she's free to find a "work husband" to protect her from her evil overlords and to take her bad day out on!).

Then one day, "work wife" was suddenly fired from her job (long story) - mostly due to office politics gone bad and since then, life at work sucks.

I'm high up the food chain here, and the number of peers at my level is quite limited. "Work wife" and I were on the same level, organizationally, and the higher you climb up the ranks in a company, the lonelier it gets.

Whatever you want to call the person - we all need a close buddy at work. It was like I lost my best 9-5 friend that left me feeling empty as I wander the halls like a lost dog looking for its master.

Now I'm a disgruntled employee quietly looking for a new job.