Thrill-seeking leads to workplace affairs: Experts

New Delhi, June 24(Calcutta Tube) Physical attraction or emotional bonding at the workplace is bound to happen, but it can land you in trouble if the motive behind that growing bond is not in the right spirit, experts say.

Take the case of David Davidar, who was fired as Penguin Canada chief after a sexual harassment case was filed against him by a former woman colleague, Lisa Rundle. This is a classic example of a simple friendship growing into attraction and which is now being labeled a ‘consensual flirtatious relationship’.

Experts say such bonds start growing at the workplace because people spend most of the time in office.

‘When we work together, we are actually spending the larger part of our day with our colleagues. So there is a much greater possibility of developing an attraction,’ psychiatrist Sanjay Chugh told IANS.

In the case of Davidar and Rundle, they started working together in late 2005 and the proximity between them increased after they started meeting frequently.

Davidar’s counsel has stated that he (Davidar) came to think of Rundle as his closest friend and confidante at work.

Samir Parikh, consultant psychiatrist at Max Healthcare in New Delhi, agreed with Chugh and said that it’s not just physical attraction, but an emotional bond as well that brings together two individuals at the workplace.

‘There can be times when a person requires emotional support and he finds solace in another person at his workplace. Sometimes it turns into an affair and sometimes it doesn’t,’ Parikh told IANS.

In Davidar’s case, Rundle has accused him of harassing her with a flood of ‘inappropriate e-mails and text messages’.

Davidar doesn’t deny the e-mails and has gone to the extent of saying Rundle liked the attention she was being paid.

‘…Davidar wrote Rundle personal emails, read poetry to her and they exchanged gifts from time to time. Throughout this friendship, Davidar would ask Rundle if she liked the attention he was paying her and she indicated she did,’ said a statement June 21 by Peter A. Downard of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, a leading Toronto-based law firm that has been engaged as litigation counsel on behalf of Davidar.

In January 2010, Rundle requested a pay increase, the statement said.

‘Davidar reminded her that her salaries at Penguin were frozen. However, he offered her the role of director of digital publishing and foreign rights. This justified a pay increase of $10,000,’ Downard’s statement said.

So did Davidar’s power have anything to do in this case? Chugh thought it did.

‘For a person who holds a position of power and is perhaps used to it, there is just greater ease in going ahead with one’s wishes. Power has the danger of corrupting a person by making him feel he can do and get anything that he wishes,’ Chugh said.

‘When a person is in power, he often forgets to think on the right lines. In a way, such people allow their positions to dominate them,’ he added.

Parikh didn’t entirely agree, saying: ‘It depends on the behavioural pattern of a person. Sometimes, if the urges are not controlled and people are not willing to take ‘No’ for an answer, such situations arise.’

Chugh also pointed out that though cases of sexual harassment arise at every position, only men in power face the music.

So, while Davidar has deeply regreted the hurt he has caused his wife, experts say it is the thrill-seeking tendency that leads to such affairs.

‘It would be incorrect to say that they (thrill seekers) are not scared about how it may impact their family and career. In most cases, they are very concerned that their extramarital affairs should not affect their ‘normal’ lives. They also take a lot of precautions, but it’s tough to hide such things,’ Chugh pointed out.

So while everyone sympathises with Rundle, one can’t deny the fact that women too use their gender to climb the ladder – but there is a twist that can favour them.

‘Women are often caught in such sexual advances, but it is just a wee bit easier for them as they can very comfortably play the victim when found out and the whole world will buy their story,’ Chugh said.

(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at shilpa.r@ians.in)

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