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Dating In The 'Office' Can Be A Collision Course

Valentine's Day serves as a reminder that romances are found in all sorts of places — even the office. Lucy Kellaway, a columnist for the Financial Times in London, covers workplace trends with an irreverent voice through her day job. On the side, she wrote a novel, In Office Hours, which uses the same quirky tone to describe how two different couples navigate the treacherous waters of interoffice relationships.

"People do insane things at work," Kellaway told Morning Edition host Renee Montagne. "And I think that there are quite a few reasons for it. One is the risk-taking gene; if you are successful in business you take a lot of risks. You get a sort of adrenaline from that."

Kellaway has some experience of her own with office romance; she's currently married to a man from her own workplace. She describes her affair as a legitimate one, but says that it was illegitimate affairs that interested her to dive into the fictional realm; the ones she describes as "dead secret…that break all the taboos."

If you are successful in business you take a lot of risks; you get a sort of adrenaline from that.

The two couples in her novel are of varying ages; one involves an older woman and her younger male assistant, and the other is a younger female researcher who falls for her older male colleague. Kellaway says that she wanted to explore the different reactions that both affairs brought about in the office.

In the end, the women seem to bear the brunt of the fallout, both losing their jobs in the process of falling in love. Kellaway argues that standard procedure in many offices is for a younger woman to be dismissed when having an affair with an older male colleague; and in the case of the senior female having an affair with her junior assistant, the boss views the ensuing scandal as too much to bear and resigns.

Stella, one of the characters of In Office Hours, continues her affair with her younger colleague after she knows it will lead to trouble, because, as Kellaway puts it, "she knows it's wrong, she knows its crazy, but she's already convinced herself she's in love with this man, and so it's too late."

"Your professional life determines that you behave in this very orderly sort of polite, public way," Kellaway says. "And if what is going on inside you is this massively tempestuous, secret, emotional thing, it's not going to just sort of peter out into a perfectly orderly state. Collision courses do result, in the end, in a collision."

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