17% Polled Think a Fling With the Boss Could Boost Their Career

Early in Gwyneth Paltrow's acting career, she was "shocked" when it was suggested she end a meeting in the bedroom, she recently told Elle magazine. Paltrow, who says she left the meeting, was asked to do what some workers say they'd do if asked -- sleep with the boss to advance their career.

Seventeen percent of 1,000 American workers and their bosses said in a survey that they'd have an office fling with their boss if it would advance their career.

Workers in the Adecco Group survey said that socializing with their boss -- Facebook friends, going out for a drink and the usual social stuff -- won't help them get ahead at work, but 9 percent "completely agree" that having sex with their boss will help their career, with 8 percent saying they "somewhat agree."

More common than you think

Look around your office. Chances are you know someone who is doing this, and the odds are it will end badly. The downsides include divorce, the boss and/or employee getting fired, or a sexual harassment lawsuit.

"There are much more legitimate ways to advance your career," said Matt Wallaert, a behavioral psychologist and co-founder of GetRaised.com, a website that helps people figure out how to request a raise legitimately without resorting to destructive behavior, such as blackmail or having sex with your boss.

"Taking on a new job responsibility... is much more likely to get you a raise than sleeping with your boss," Wallaert told AOL Jobs in a phone interview.

Sometimes it works out, as it did for "K," who works at a New York entertainment company. "I started 'seeing' my boss and now I'm still at the company, we have a 2-year-old daughter and are going on our fourth year in a serious relationship," she wrote in an e-mail to AOL Jobs.

Comedian Dan Nainan said he worked for a record company in Hollywood and was in a relationship with the CEO's assistant, which isn't exactly sleeping with the boss, but it did help Nainan get to know the boss better. "There was also the added benefit of people around the company being very careful about how they treated me, since they had to be very careful with me" because he was dating the boss's assistant, Nainan wrote in an e-mail to AOL Jobs.

The people who happily walk away from a relationship with the boss, or marry the boss, are the lucky ones. Lots of couples meet at work, but a boss-worker relationship can often lead to legal problems for the boss or the company, said Michael Casey, a labor and employment lawyer in Miami who represents management. Relationships among peers at work are generally not illegal, but they can be with subordinates, Casey said.

It can turn out very badly

A consensual relationship turns into sex harassment when the subordinate employee says it is and the advances are unwelcome, Casey said. Favoritism by a boss having sex with one employee isn't illegal if the worker agrees to it, although it raises morality questions at work among other workers who know of the affair and think having a fling with the boss is necessary to advance a career, he said. Having sex with a lot of subordinates, however, is illegal, and is called gender discrimination.

"For someone to get ahead, they think they have to sleep with the boss," Casey said.

Many companies prohibit manager-employee relationships so they won't get sued, he said. A company can protect itself by firing a manager upon learning of the relationship, and requiring a "love contract" signed by both people that the relationship is welcome and voluntary.

California law, for example, holds the company and individual supervisor liable for sexual harassment if the paramours create a hostile work environment for workers not sexually involved with the supervisor, said Melanie Calvert, a labor and employment attorney in Pasadena, Calif.

"If favoritism is severe or pervasive, other employees. who are not favored, perceive that 'sex is required to get ahead in the work place.'" Calvert wrote in an e-mail to AOL Jobs, citing a California case.

Morally and legally, it's a difficult place to be. If you don't want to be called a prostitute at work, don't do it, although at least it's not as destructive as other bad conduct at work -- such as theft and embezzlement -- reminds Wallaert, the behavioral psychologist.

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