It’s been a dizzying few days for discussions around workplace relationships. Amber Harrison, former executive assistant and ex-lover of Seven West Media chief executive Tim Worner lost her court battle. Two senior AFL officials resigned and apologised after “inappropriate relationships”.
Is it all a heartbreaking mess? Yes, absolutely. For many reasons, lots of people wanted to see Harrison triumph in her battle against the so-called ‘boys club’.
Today, Harrison says her case is a “wake-up call”. Indeed it is, but not for the reasons she’s suggesting.
She told the ABC’s AM program, “At some point the boys club that dominates and defines Australian business are going to wake up and realise they are no longer in control. My case is a wake-up call for them and I hope it changes things and changes culture and how individuals are treated against the system.”
Hmm. I’m not convinced about laying blame at the feet of the ‘boys club’ or chattering about ‘culture’.
These were all consenting women. They were all grown adults capable of making their own choices. That is what empowerment is all about.
All parties involved, in both Harrison’s case and the AFL, made poor decisions. But they made poor choices as individual human beings with consciences to answer to; it’s not a gender blame game.
Having a workplace affair is a risk assessment game for both parties. If you can’t handle the worst case scenario, don’t play the game.
Harrison is correct, there are many important lessons for all women to learn from this chain of events. It is, indeed, a “wake-up call” for women and men contemplating, or currently indulging in, a workplace relationship to stop in their tracks, and ask themselves the confronting questions.
“Am I doing the right thing?”
“Is anyone going to get hurt?”
“Am I really doing the right thing?”
If you’re married, you’ve made a solemn promise to another human being, it is your responsibility to honour that promise. If you have children, surely they spring to mind before your lusty loins start writhing and springing leaks.
It is no more the men’s fault in all of this mess than the women’s. Or vice versa. All are adults, culpable for making decisions that enable them to sleep soundly at night without a guilty conscience peeling back their eyelids in the early hours.
Did they? No.
Who’s to blame? All of them.
This isn't about resentment, or power and "see I told you they'd wipe the floor with her". It's actually about taking back our own individual empowerment for our own decisions.
I’ve had relationships with people at work over the years. The office is, after all, where we spend the majority of our time. There are times when a flirty glance on the way to the photocopier is the sparkly highlight of the day. It’s exciting, it’s fun and it gives you a break from pouring over spreadsheets, or whatever else your average day entails.
Do workplace relationships succeed? Of course they do. Sometimes. But many more end up with you wishing you’d kept your flirty eyes to yourself at the photocopier before you pressed the green button.
LISTEN: Mamamia Out Loud discuss the one interview question you can't ask a prospective female employee (post continues after audio...)
This is not a daytime holiday fling. This is part of your real life equation, it involves your out of office life and you need to consider your moves very carefully.
And so, Amber Harrison, as for the “wake-up call” of your case, I believe it is firmly in this…
Every action has consequences. Often those consequences can spiral out of your control.
Your real empowerment is right at the beginning, before the dominoes start to fall. We’ve all got to be very aware that with every decision comes a risk assessment.
If we decide to roll those dice and enter into the game in the first place, we must remember that choice was ours to make and we can never be certain of the outcome.