THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Hooking up: Negotiating those office romances

When hooking up with a co-worker, the number-one rule is you should not be flagrant. A new handbook for workplace dating, Office Mate, is full of practical precautions like asking the person out in the parking lot rather than in the cubicle.  

Why the caution? According to a Gallup poll, people are more offended by someone kissing a co-worker than by someone stealing or drinking on the job. Barnes & Noble is so offended that the store won't carry Office Mate.  

Attitudes toward office mating get more lax down the corporate ladder. Younger people expect to hook-up with coworkers. They're working most of their waking hours, so it's a natural spot to search for romantic opportunities.

 It used to be that women had to preserve what little power they had at the office and couldn't squander power with bedroom antics. But women don't have time to waste. Most want to get married by the time they're 30, so they probably want to be in the right relationship by 28. This means they'll probably have to date men at work in order to meet their timetables. 

Also consider: We do best with limited choices, which makes the workplace more appealing than say, Harvard psychologist Karim Kassam studies how we deal with choices, and he found that we're more satisfied when we're picking from four or five things than from many more.

 Kassam says we have a "psychological immune system" that helps us see outcomes as positive. He uses the Ivy League as an example: If you get into Harvard but not Princeton, you can tell yourself that Princeton is a country club anyway. But if you get into Harvard but not Princeton and not Stanford, then you can't say Princeton was too pretentious because Stanford is less pretentious than Harvard.  

"The more alternatives there are," says Kassam, "the more psychological maneuvering you have to do to tell yourself that your outcome is the best."  

Apply this to dating. You're much better off choosing from the five people you spend your days with than from the 6000 people available online. You might think you'll find someone better online, but in fact, you'll have a harder time convincing yourself that it's someone good.  

The problem is, workplace romance is a slippery slope, especially because not every hook-up is about establishing a lasting marriage. And some are about disrupting a marriage.

 A one-night stand might improve your health. But be careful about letting things get too intense, because the human brain in love is like the human brain on cocaine: totally obsessed.  

Rutgers anthropologist Helen Fisher studies love, and she found that the part of our brain that looks for cocaine is the same part that thinks about the person we're in love with. We all know how effective the coke addict is at work; the same can be said of the romantically obsessed.

And, bad news for people who think they'll have a quick affair that won't get messy: the human brain is capable of feeling attached in a long-term way to one person while at the same time in love with another person.  

It's a different ball game if you travel a lot for work– people play more often.  

A Yahoo poll found that most extramarital flings happen while someone is on the road. So it surprised me that only 10 percent of people on the road take their wedding rings off. But then I was sitting on a plane next to a guy wearing a wedding ring, and I told him about that research. He said he thought women were more likely to hook up with a guy wearing a ring, because married men are safer. Then, when the plane landed, he asked me out.  #