By Shannon Kelley Gould
A strange thing happened this morning when I ambled into the office kitchen for my first (okay, fourth) caffeine fix of the day: I noticed a rather large, definitely prominently displayed, sprig of mistletoe dangling from the doorjamb. I stopped for a moment, gazed at the foliage — hanging there so innocently, blissfully unaware of the drama that might take place at its bequest — and wondered. Encouraging coworkers to engage in a workplace smooch: wildly inappropriate or harmless yuletide fun? While no one’s accusing anyone of sexual harassment (yet), picture this: you run into a not-so-hot superior under said mistletoe, and he or she gazes at you, oh-so-hopefully. Perhaps you manage to squelch the urge to vomit, but the awkwardness will undoubtedly live on. On the flipside, what if your office crush appears in the doorway, the mental music swells, and the two of you decide to throw caution to the wind? And what if the queen of office gossip happens by at precisely the wrong moment? A kiss may be just a kiss, but, as Human Resources Generalist Ani Casillas points out, it’s a post-Clarence Thomas world we’re living in. “I hate when HR has to be the party pooper, but that mistletoe is just a complaint waiting to happen,” she said. And even if both parties are into a little lip service and the holidays have them feeling non-litigious, there are still the cross-cubicle-canoodling landmines to contend with. Relationship expert Anna David said that, while colleagues have as much of a shot at a civil — if not happy — ending as anyone, “Today’s exciting new partner can just as easily end up tomorrow’s nightmare — whom you have to sit next to at the conference table! My advice for a workplace romance is to take it slow, and don’t do anything crazy — like christen the boss’s desk.” Well put. As for my coworkers and the mistletoe in the kitchen, frankly, I think everyone’s a little more interested in the free pizza.