Workplace relations that transition to the altar of marriage

Friday, September 27th, 2019 00:00 |

The secretary. She does everything for her boss with dedication. She arranges the office and keeps his diary. She books his flights, cabs and hotel rooms. She knows his perfect suit size and will rush to buy him clothes for the impromptu meetings and travels. When under medication, she ensures he completes his dose as their days—more that eight hours—are spent together. In the office.

With all these daily interactions it is not strange to find this work relationship giving birth to romance. And before you know it, the secretary takes the role of a wife. Such was the case for the late Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace. With Grace being Mugabe’s secretary, it wasn’t hard for them to fall in love in 1987 and wed in 1996.

Secretary cum mistress cum wife

In a past interview, Mugabe says theirs was love at first sight. “Grace came in as a secretary and they were many of them, I just looked at them and then it was love at first sight with Grace. At that time, his first wife, Sally was suffering from renal complications and was unable to bear children for Mugabe who said he needed someone to give his mother grandchildren. Grace was then married to air force pilot Stanley Goreraza. She became Mugabe’s mistress while she was still married to Goreraza – and had two children, Bona born in 1988, named after Mugabe’s mother, and Robert Peter Jr. After the death of Mugabe’s first wife, Sally, the couple was married in an extravagant wedding titled the “Wedding of the Century” by Zimbabwe press.

It was not any different for the late Tob Cohen and Sarah Wairimu. Cohen was looking for a personal assistant and Wairimu was a young girl looking for employment. He often told his friends that he liked her zeal. A few years later, they started dating. They got married in 2007. 

There is a lot of love going on in the office. According to several studies, about 80 per cent of employees have either observed or been in a romantic relationship at their workplace.

Mercy Kihura talks of how she found love at her work place. “The first time I set my eyes on him, he was among the panelists conducting interview,” she recalls. At that time, over 20 new staff joined the company, so even in her wildest dream, she couldn’t think the boss would be eyeing her. She recalls how as his secretary she made sure all the documents and any other service he needed to be done was attended to. Being a banking sector, she ensured he got all the cheques and personal letters delivered to him.

Bobb, Mercy’s husband says all he can remember was seeing a striking woman in the office and thinking to himself, “Why not make her my friend. ”However, with time, it all changed. “Instead of sending her to bring me lunch, I tagged along. It being a corporate organisation, I didn’t want our affair to be public. I would ask her to wait for me at a certain corner where I always ended up picking her,” he recalls. 

With time, it became difficult to hide their relationship. Not everyone was for boss-secretary relationship, but they moved on. 

It was not any different for, Julie*. As a tea girl, she would once in a while serve her boss tea and knew just the amount of sugar he liked. The two later dated and got married.  

According to Gidraph Wairire, a sociologist, one of the key interactive mechanisms that govern spousal choice is propinquity. Propinquity refers to the feelings of nearness developed over time between two people that plants in them the desire to actualise their association into permanence. 

In this case, propinquity exists at different levels, but is solidified by the sharing of existential space such as an office. The spatial closeness shared in such settings soon gives way to psycho-emotional propinquity that generates attraction and eventually, intimacy.

An officeprovides the perfect environment for attractions to form. Coworkers have similar traits and goals, are familiar and accessible, and share in each other’s excitement, frustrations, and celebrations. 

How love sprouts

 “Spousal choice is premised more on the germination of intimate knowledge of each other. By virtue of their roles, a secretary or a personal assistant (PA) soon develops intimate knowledge of her boss’ affairs. Even more contributory is her ability to learn his habitual orientations and his character predispositions. On his part, the typical boss soon becomes overly reliant on his secretary or PA and realises that his life rotates around him. In this way, the secretary or the PA becomes almost indispensible,” Wairire notes. 

Spousal selection is also dependent of the ability of the two to trust and have faith in each other. Occupational intimacy is a well proven source of trust and faith because having gained unfettered access to her boss’ secrets, the secretary or PA is invariably the custodian of such secrets. 

However, according Psychology Today, supervisor-subordinate dating is the most hazardous to an employee’s reputation and career. These relationships, say researchers, evoke company censure, ill-will from fellow workers, and possible lawsuits.

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