The Office Affair

The London Paper  –  4 Dec 2006

I think the novelist Jay McInerney best summed it up when he said that there are ‘two kinds of men – those who cheated, and those who felt guilty afterward’. Obviously I’m the exception that proves the rule but I wish I could say the same about some of my colleagues – one of whom has just began ‘dipping his pen in the company ink’.

In the old days executive positions in the City used to be so male-dominated that office affairs would generally fit into the classic boss-secretary mould but since women have began to break through the glass ceiling things have got a little more complex. My colleagues’ affair has all the hallmarks of the modern City ‘romance’. Both those involved are married and reasonably senior – hence, they both have as much to lose should it become public knowledge (from a newspaper article, for example).

I know these two naughty characters have been working on the same corporate deal and I can imagine how at around 3am after working for 18 hours solid on some tedious technical detail, one of them looked at the other and thought ‘why not?’ It’s a common feeling amongst bankers that they’re earning lots of cash but have no time to spend it and that life is passing them by. One way to pretend that you’re not just waiting to feed the worms is to wrap your laughing gear around someone and get jiggy with it. I hear that every year at my bank’s security guards’ Christmas party they show some CC TV footage that would make the late Mary Whitehouse spin in her grave.

The only thing that surprises me about office affairs in the City is that I haven’t heard about more of them. Taking into account the long hours and the hard-drinking testosterone-fuelled culture you’d think that everyone was making the ‘beast with two backs’ non-stop. One possible reason for this surprising sexual austerity is that there are too many ambitious, sexless geeks in the City desperate not to prejudice their chances of climbing the corporate ladder. Perhaps even more importantly, is that in the eyes of the law there’s a fine line between flirting and sexual harassment. Because a hand on the bum can mean that you lose your seven figure salary (and never work in the City again) most men try to make sure the little head doesn’t tell the big head what to do even after excessive imbibing of the devil’s urine. This helps explain why Cityboys don’t risk their careers with office affairs and opt for the relatively safe outlet that strip joints offer (more on that next week).

I think all this is a massive shame. If there were higher chances of shenanigans at the office this job would be infinitely more pleasant. I’d certainly be coming into work with a bit more of a spring in my step … eh, only in the hypothetical scenario of being single, of course.

Thoughts ?

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