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Till jobs do us part: Work spouse, an emerging work place reality

, March 27, 2014, 3 Comments

Work Spouse-MarketExpress

The nuances of “Work Spouse” Concept and insights on the pros and cons of this relationship.

In a competitive era like ours careers are engulfing every sphere of our lives. Increasingly urban professionals are fighting a battle to create a work life balance. In many industries and sectors work hours are unduly long and stressful. Stiff deadline, targets and pressures from key stakeholders make workplaces look more like minefields.

In such a 24/ 7 high pressure work environment, people are finding newer mechanism of coping and seeking more stable, peaceful and harmonious work places. While Organizations are striving to make workplaces appealing, at an individual level, “Work Spouse” relationship is looked at by few as an oasis in the dessert. ″Work spouse″ is a term used to refer to a co-worker, usually of the opposite gender with whom one shares a special relationship, having bonds similar to those of a marriage, minus the physicality of marital relationship.

With line of demarcation between personal and professional spaces getting narrower, employees are increasingly seeking bonds of trust, banter camaraderie in places which are meant to be strictly professional. The desire to seek trustful and an honest relationship defines the very essence of mankind. With Darwinism and the famous “survival of the fittest at peak in office spaces, human vulnerabilities need to be managed.

Typically having a confidant and well wisher is often desired and sought. Raising the curtains of your inner world, unraveling your deepest worries, insecurities and fears to a colleague can be a very soothing and therapeutic. The advantages are very many. It provides one with a strong emotional anchor in the form of a Work Spouse. By allaying ones fears, such a relationship instills great degree of confidence. One can nonchalantly express ones views on project and job issues without being unduly bothered about “corporate image building”. Such a sensitive and honest relationship could go a long way taking ones productivity to new highs.

Does work spouse emerge as a motivator or a hygiene factor needs to be still deciphered. However these relationship are an off shoot of battle fatigue that one experiences in work place. Not all jobs offer a possibility of developing a Work Spouse. Such a relationship breeds where the need for teaming , competing and collaborating are highest . These alliances in work place can be very gender neutral, age neutral and cut across corporate hierarchies. They evolve as a product of the fundamental affiliation needs and a matured attempt of nurturing trust and empathy.

However, fostering such a relationship has its own challenges. The possibility of providing fodder for gossip cannot be overruled. This inexplicable intimacy over the coffee table, cafeteria or cubicles raises eyebrows and suspicious glances. There is also a possibility of crossing the threshold of the platonic bond. It may attract envy, doubt among other team members. The worst could be if the relationship ceases to be fulfilling to one of the partners leading to an “Office Divorce”.

Having come so far one may wonder how a Work Spouse is different from a good friend at work. While the essence of both stem from a deep desire to relate and belong, the difference may lie in the perception of authority. A work spouse may score higher in terms exclusivity, unconditional acceptance and intimacy. While one may have numerous friends at work, mostly a Work Spouse relationship would be shared with one.

Finally the golden question is “What do you think about the “Work Spouse” relationship. As somebody looking at it as a quantum of solace, one needs to be very transparent with the real spouse (if exists ) about scope and limits of the relationship. Care should be also taken to see that office husbands and wives do not undermine real-life partnerships. Such a relationship should not become a source of jealousy, mistrust and divide among real life partners.

For those who may not still desire having and office mate, as it may unfurl more complications and complexities, they must at least be sensitive to the possibility of witnessing such a relationship and develop a non-judgmental approach towards it. After all, with the dynamics of Work places changing at such a supersonic speed and getting defined by the values of the Millennial employees, such relationship will demand their own space going forward.

ABOUT THE  CO-AUTHORS | The views expressed are personal. authors-deepika-dabke-marketexpress Prof.  Deepika Dabke Dr. Deepika Dabke. is a Psychologist and Faculty at IBS Business School, Mumbai….more






  • Ritesh Kumar Singh

    Good one

  • Fine balance is certainly required. Thin line between work spouse and an extra marital affair (if married!). I’ve seen so called “day husbands” ruining good marriages.

  • Himanshu Bhatt

    Our economy embraced liberalisation long ago. And now its our turn, To walk hand in hand with the world , we will have to walk hand in hand together.