Are you infatuated with your boss? Are you dreaming of having an office affair? High profile examples of people falling for their boss (and often regretting it) get splashed across the headlines on such a regular basis, it’s barely a surprise when the next affair pops up.
For examples you don’t get better than the number of women working in American politics who have fallen for the president over the years. We may remember Monica Lewinski, from her 1995-96 dalliance with Bill Clinton (and indeed her recent, passionate TED talk against Internet bullying) - but there have been many more occasions on which the magnetism of presidential power has led to infatuation.
So many in fact, that the subject of ’presidential affairs we have forgotten about’ is sufficiently rich that it recently became the subject of its own listicle. From the archives we find stories of secretaries, campaign volunteers, reporters, aides, and even the wives of high profile supporters who have become infatuated with their president. Power is sexy, after all. I look forward to the first female president adding some gender variety to the catalogue!
So if you’re infatuated with your boss, at least you’re in good company. And the attraction might very well be mutual. According to one report, nearly half of bosses fancy a member (or, presumably several members) of staff. And something like twenty percent of them got to act on this, with one night stands on nights out with work being the main reason for office relations becoming suddenly a little more than platonic.
But as common as it is, we have read enough tabloid headlines and miserable Facebook posts to realise that falling for the boss isn’t such a smart thing. So why does it happen? And are you really infatuated with your boss?
Are you infatuated?
Before you start to worry, figure out whether or not you’re really infatuated. Infatuation is a funny thing. Of course many successful, happy and long term relationships are forged in the work place. We spend so much of our time in work, it’s hardly surprising. And there are yet more office party indiscretions - which might cause some red faces come Monday, but hardly look likely to change the course of history. But infatuation is neither Christmas party tryst, nor mutually blossoming office romance.
Infatuation is something more akin to an addiction - and there are similarities between the way the human brain reacts to narcotics and the way it reacts to the powerful combination of hormones created during infatuation. Dopamine and oxytocin are produced by the body in large volume during infatuation, and because the brain links these happy hormones with the subject of the infatuation, you start to associate an individual with a sensation. The problem with this is that dopamine production is stimulated in part by novelty, leaving you, like any other addict, needing more to achieve the same ’hit’ of hormones.
An infatuation, of course, can mature into a balanced and long lasting relationship. But if it doesn’t, it can make for some pretty poor decisions, impaired judgement and associated problems like anxiety and irrational jealousy.
So in short, if you’re truly infatuated with your boss, now might be the time to take a step back and review your situation. Have a go at this test to ascertain whether or not you’re really infatuated, or seek professional help if you are worried about your emotional health.
So why do people get infatuated with the boss?
Although infatuation can be a thrill, it’s also a risk. Getting infatuated can threaten your emotional well- being, and when you add in the fact that the subject of your infatuation is your boss you also run the risk of losing your job and materially impacting your future success. It’s playing with fire - so why do people do it?
Board room mating displays
There are several psychological reasons proposed to explain the frequency with which people find themselves falling uncontrollably for their boss. One is that body languageassociated with dominance and power (often displayed by alpha types who might well find themselves in management) can also be associated with courting.
Power poses such as leaning back in a chair with hands on head and elbows wide, can show who is in charge, but also bear more than a passing similarly to the postures in the mating displays of many animals. Think birds with puffed up feathers or bull frogs inflating their giant bellies - these displays, without a boardroom in sight - help our animal cousins establish power and strength to find a mate. Could it be that our reaction to displays of this nature in the office are more primitive than we might like to admit? Perhaps our brains are hard wired through evolution to view these power poses as courtship.
Power is sexy
Even without the link to our animal ancestry, there’s no denying that another reason for work place infatuation is that people are attracted to power. Because of persistent gender imbalances which mean that more men are in positions of power at work, this tends to manifest itself as women being attracted to powerful men. Psychologists are quick to point out, however, that men are equally attracted to other powerful men; otherwise there would be no such thing as gang culture.
Earning power pulls
A further - and perhaps more obvious - reason people might become infatuated with their boss is that earning power pulls. As well as the intuitive truth that knowing a potential partner can pay their way (or even better, support just a little bit a champagne lifestyle), scientists have shown with research into ’Speed Dating’ events, that earning power along with good looks, are key to speed date success.
Fast and furious
And further research (I’m sure these guys will spend some of their time helping the development of humanity, just as soon as they’ve finished working out how to get a date), has shown that women prefer men who drive nice cars. The researchers came up with the startling revelation that when shown two pictures of the same guy, one in a Bentley and one driving a beat up wreck, women pick the Bentley every time. Might not change the world, but might help you understand why you’re just a teeny bit infatuated with your jag-driving boss.
See also: Should You Have an Office Romance?
Like so much in life, getting infatuated with your boss might seem like a good idea at the time, but quite quickly it could become something to regret. There are pretty strong evolutionary and psychological reasons why you might get infatuated with your boss - and pretty good practical reasons why you should not.
If you’re tempted, then it’s probably best to think it through before you get too deeply involved, for the sake of your mental health as well as your career prospects. Recap on some of history’s famous infatuation fails and don’t be swayed by the fat wallet or fancy car, no matter what your subconscious might tell you!