Question from a digital media buyer: So much of our business has social events with unlimited alcohol involved, lots of unwinding from high-stress jobs, and what seems like an equal amount of young men and women in the industry. So, with Valentine's Day a recent memory -- what are the rules on dating within the business?
Amy says: When I was a young lass, I must admit that it was pretty exciting to be going to fabulous places with salespeople. There was a spell in 2003, I think, where I was completely hungover 17 out of 19 days. But in all, that drunkenness I never got involved with any of my sellers. (I'm a revisionist historian, BTW.)
Now that I am older, I have observed my teams adjusting to the realities of being professional in social situations. I definitely make sure assistants and planners understand what is appropriate to talk about, that they should send thank-you notes, and advise them about not getting too hammered and becoming an advertising legend due to bad behavior.
Dating at work is another matter, however. I am a happily married, hopeless romantic, and my POV is that you never know when true love will strike, so you have to be ready. Here are some humble suggestions: Fraternization in the workplace is never a great idea, so don't intentionally look for love in this #1 of "all the wrong places." Digital advertising is a career choice, not just a job, and you tend to spend the majority of your time at work and with co-workers. If you are having trouble finding dates, try to get some kind of activity outside of work. Volunteer, take an art class, stop using fluff and fold and hang out at the laundromat; do the things your mom would tell you to do to meet new people.
If you do find romance among the IOs, be smart about it. This is not as much a problem for buyers as it is for sellers, I think. I've had sellers tell me that being scorned by someone with purchasing authority is a very bad situation to be in. How does a salesperson explain to their boss that a million dollar deal got canceled by a crush gone wrong? And from a buyer perspective, do you really want to complicate your life by having to think of your broken heart whenever your ex-boyfriend's site shows up on a media plan?
There are no hard and fast rules here, so you have to use your best judgment. But I don't know for sure if the selling community shares this laissez-faire perspective. Jason, what do you tell your peeps?
Jason says: What do you think this is, Cosmo? Amy, I guess it is a good sign that we have been dishing out such stellar advice, our readers now trust us to dole out dating tips.
As it so happens, I have dated once or twice, so I have some knowledge in this area and I am happy to help. First, are we so different from many other areas of the workplace? Of course we are. We always are. I don't know if we have more young people than other industries, but we probably have more young people with expense accounts. The younger the demographic, the more single, inexperienced fish floundering around in the sea. More young people seem to be going out on sales calls and making more connections than ever before as well. When I broke into the media business, the people going out on calls were in their mid- to late-30s ("chickens"). Now, they are in their mid- to late-20s ("spring chickens"). And the people they are calling on are the same age ("fellow chickens"). This recipe is ripe for some interesting situations.
The first possible danger zone is dating a co-worker. The equation here is simple. If you are spending copious amounts of time alongside people with whom you have a lot in common, nature may take its course. This can be problematic, so try to avoid the temptation as much as possible. You have the best intentions now, but no one except the producers of "The Bachelor" ever plans for a terrible break-up. And if that happens, it can be very messy and detrimental to you in many ways. If the situation is unavoidable and your heart just cannot be reasoned with, do the right thing and come clean with your manager. If you are in a serious situation, then treat it seriously.
The second scenario is dating a vendor with whom you are conducting business. This can be much more damaging. When you are responsible for large sums of someone else's money, you don't want to be seen as having a conflict of interest because you also think Ms. Vendor is just too cute for words. I would avoid the latter situation in every instance because the harm can be personal, professional and long-lasting.
Both of the above situations make perfect sense and occasionally happen. I know many people who have had both positive and negative experiences when it comes to love and business, myself included. By the way, don't EVER get drunk, commandeer the PowerPoint presentation and start ranking your co-workers by bedroom prowess -- hypothetically or otherwise. Act as responsibly as you can and take the high road. Next month, we'll talk about how to get flat abs in 10 minutes -- or Jennifer Aniston's new hair.