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Workplace Entanglements
By Caterina Spinaris
Published: 09/14/2009

Holdinghands As in other branches of law enforcement, sexual involvement is not uncommon between corrections employees who are married or in otherwise committed relationships. These behaviors cause a multitude of complications in the workplace and can also wreak havoc in people’s personal lives.

Here are some thoughts as to why corrections staff may get entangled in such relationships, even after they have witnessed similar situations ending in shipwrecks.

False sense of intimacy. Staff spends a good portion of their waking hours with coworkers, in close quarters. In many cases they spend more time with coworkers than with their own partners. Together, they share stressful and even traumatic experiences. They bond with one another like soldiers in a combat zone. Staff may not confide in their partners about work to not cause them worry, to maintain professional confidentiality requirements, or to forget about work while at home. They may come to believe that fellow employees understand and support them better than their partners. Physical proximity coupled with shared unique experiences on the job can cause professional boundaries to collapse.

Emotional release. The corrections environment tends to be one of underlying tension, negativity and/or boredom. Distressing emotions get stirred up on the job with few healthy outlets. Romantic/sexual involvement in the workplace provides a jolt of excitement, a means of escape from such emotions, a mood-altering “fix.”

Self-worth issues. When a coworker flirts with a staff member with low self-esteem, that person feels desirable, “special.” The person starts to think, . I’m preferred over another person. I’m sexy/ cool /hot. I call this “collecting votes.” So getting involved with coworker ensures that these exhilarating feelings will keep getting generated, at least for a season.

Sex and romance “addiction.” The process of seduction provides powerful although temporary mood lifts. As the effects wear off over time, addicts seek a new high through a new relationship. And the pattern continues. In some cases even sex addicts fall for the games of others who are deeper into their sex addiction, who are more of a true sexual predator on the “hunt” for their next conquest, their next victim. So those who just wanted to “play” may end up devastated, beaten at their own game.

Role modeling. Exposure to certain behaviors desensitizes people to them. Staff’s conduct influences other staff. When exposed to coworkers’ involvement with fellow employees, some staff might come to regard this as acceptable or even advantageous behavior, and they may follow suit.

What can keep staff from getting caught in these traps?
  1. Count the cost. Is a fleeting thrill worth destroying years of investment in your partner and your family? Is it worth damaging your integrity, your self-respect, and perhaps your career?
  2. Seek help. If you find that you are strongly attracted to a coworker, ask to be moved to a different team, a different shift or even a different facility. Seek professional counseling to learn to distinguish between love and infatuation, and to address addictive acting-out patterns.
  3. Examine your beliefs about yourself. The less you truly love and respect yourself in healthy ways, the more you’ll expect others to make you feel lovable and respectable. Sooner or later your partner will disappoint you. If you can’t shore yourself up through your inner resources at low points in your committed relationship, you’ll look elsewhere for an ego boost. Get help for these issues, as they are not likely to go away on their own. Your future and your family’s future depend on it.

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  1. Best Jail.com on 09/15/2009:

    I think this is a good article and it has a lot of merit. In this field as well as all law enforcement we spend the majority of our time with our co workers and we do bond and its hard to determine if its only innocent fun playing around and joking or its something more. A lot of times these feelings are taken to the next step and as time goes on you realize that it was a mistake. That co worker that seem so sensitive to your problems and gave you the impression that they cared suddenly change, now things are tense no more flirting or playing around this is it. You have to now work around this person that have shattered your inner peace. I know some of you know where I'm coming from cause you been there.

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