OFFICE POLITICS 101: I may be tempted with someone at a conference
Q: Four employees – including me – will be attending a conference in another part of the country. I am a close friend of one of the guys (I’m a woman) and we are both single. To be candid, I’m worried we might end up getting a little too close. Your thoughts?
There’s no doubt that out-of-town events such as conventions, conferences and training sessions can present opportunities for participants to become better acquainted. And, as you imply, the remoteness can occasion times for more intimacy.
Your employer is investing thousands of dollars in you and your colleagues to be able to attend the conference. Make it a priority to use the time wisely and attend every available session and workshop to receive the maximum benefit from the experience.
Your off-hours, of course, will be your own responsibility. To be relatively direct, you will more likely feel the lure of this person if you are alone with him. Hotel rooms are not recommended for late-night conversations.
Deciding to spend most of your free time as a group (with the other two colleagues) could be a good approach and will allow you to share ideas about the conference and its application to your work responsibilities.
Staying together as a group also means you will be able to plan your itinerary more efficiently as there will likely be concurrent sessions appealing to different interests.
You say he is a “close friend,” although I presume you are not intimate. You should have a clear sense of your vision for the relationship as you could “slide” into something that is unplanned.
In addition, if the vision is not mutual, there will almost certainly be issues that will emerge.
If he is expecting the conference to provide an opportunity for you to be alone together – away from the office – he may be disappointed if you are not similarly eager.
To some extent, your conduct will be constrained by the fact you are being observed by your co-workers.
They will notice if you spend your time as a couple and may even feel upset if you don’t include them.
Even if the friendship remains at its current level, the other two may make inferences which could later be communicated informally to co-workers – and this might develop into gossip.
Your boundaries may very well be tested at the conference but be true to yourself and consider the long-term consequences of any decision you may make.
A growing friendship is to be valued; nonetheless you’ll want to be candid with him to ensure he appreciates you and honours your standards.
His affection for you, if healthy, will not diminish should you avoid increased intimacy.
• Simon Gibson is an experienced university professor, marketing executive and corporate writer. He has a PhD in education from Simon Fraser University and a degree in journalism from Carleton University. Submit your confidential questions relating to work and office life to firstname.lastname@example.org.