What staff get up to in their bedrooms, or offices, should be kept private

The world of the workplace is complicated enough without having to admit to our manager that we fancied one of our colleagues


Are you now, or have you ever been, conducting a raging affair with somebody in your office? If you’re lucky enough to work for Ipswich Borough Council, from today you’ll be expected to tell your bosses all about it.

Staff have been told they must disclose any “close personal relationships” they have with colleagues, where such closeness might cause “a conflict of interest.”

I think the idea is that department managers don’t want to run the risk of putting passionately connected staff members into positions (oh don’t be so childish) where one has to report to the other.

Can you imagine how complicated it would be if Sandra and Giles, whose relationship is already precariously balanced on a dominant/subordinate knife edge, were to find their whole dynamic shifted because Giles has to supervise Sandra’s rethinking of council parking-permit strategy in the central Ipswich area?

Declaring a close in-office relationship to your senior manager isn’t simple, is it? Do you do it together or singly?

How mortifying for Alison from accounts to have to sit there alongside Will from Bought Ledger and tell her scrofulous boss Eddie (who’s always had a crush on her) that she’s engaged in regular hanky-panky with his hated rival. Will that make a happy office? I don’t think so.

And what if the guilty couple do it singly? What happens when Colin admits, “Yes, I have been having sex with Joanna every Tuesday lunchtime in the stationery supplies office, but it’s not serious,” while Joanna explains, “Colin and I are emotionally entwined as two human beings have seldom been entwined, and we’re probably going to marry in the autumn”? Do the bosses have to take corrective action?

More worrying is that Ipswich Council isn’t interested only in serious, grown-up relationships. It wants to know about the furtive stiff as well. It insists that staff should also report “short-term relationships” of a “sexual or romantic nature”. You mean, like a random snog between George and Belinda (or indeed George and Bill) in the car park of the Britannia pub after Abigail’s leaving party? Does that count?

Perhaps they should extend their disclosure mandate to take in staff members’ chronic, hopeless longing for each other. It’ll obviously be counterproductive if you put Tara and Tim together on the same feasibility committee looking into dog licensing, if one of them has been nursing a years-long desire to rip the other’s clothes off the minute they’re seated together. But can you seriously demand that every council staffer reveals the object of their mid-afternoon fantasies?

I was especially intrigued to read the council’s helpful advice, that anyone who’s not quite sure whether their “interaction” with a colleague amounts to an actual “relationship” should seek to clarify matters by “discuss[ing] this with your line manager”.

What bliss – and I never thought I’d ever type these words – to be a line manager, if it means encountering the kind of enquiries you’d once have found in a Victorian agony column.

“Sam from Marketing’s knuckles lightly grazed the front of my cardigan yesterday, as he reached across me to the watercooler. Does this mean he cares for me?” “I’m unable to take my eyes off Phoebe from Human Resources’ arse when she walks across the canteen with her tray of coq au vin. And I think she knows it, judging by the way she never looks in my direction. Are we having a relationship? If so, could you tell her?”

The crunch will come, of course, when two people are seeing each other illicitly, and neither has the slightest intention of telling a soul, let alone a line manager (and, through him, the entire office).

Their secrecy will be all important to them. And we should be able to say that our privacy is equally all important to us, and that we shouldn’t have to compromise it for the smooth running of an office.

Ipswich Council is looking for trouble if it really imagines it can supervise human feelings in the workplace, or micromanage flesh-and-blood relationships in the boardroom.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
Serena Williams  

As Stella Creasy and Serena Williams know, a woman's achievements are still judged on appearance

Holly Baxter
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea