Dear Readers, Viviana Zelizer, professor of sociology at Princeton University, is one of the most thoughtful scholars to examine the role of money in our lives. I interviewed her about her new book, “The Purchase of Intimacy” (Princeton University Press, 2005). Q: You say people worry that if workers get too chummy on the job, they will spend more time with each other than with their work. Does intimacy interfere with efficiency? Can it be a positive force? A: People worry about mixing work with personal relations. They worry that workplace ambition and competition will contaminate their friendships or love affairs, and they worry that any intimacy will contaminate the efficiency and rationality of the workplace. A: Absolutely. There certainly is a link and should be. As in other relations, in employer/worker relations there is a short-term component – What can you do for me today? – and a long-term component – What can I count on you to do for me in the future? The second we call loyalty and we better reward it. Q: How personal should employers get with their employees? A: Employers will contribute to a better work environment if they actually take an interest in their employees’ lives and understand what is affecting their job performance. For example, women have often suffered because male employers did not understand the difficulties imposed on them by arranging care for small children. As my book shows, this is changing as legal activists are pressing for greater recognition of those family responsibilities, for both women and men. Q: I know a woman who never selects a business partner until she has shared a meal with him or her and realized that they could get along on a personal basis. Is this good business practice? A: It is an ingenious way to find out whether you will be able to do business beyond today’s deal. In all sorts of industries people make deals over meals and meet potential business associates in restaurants or bars. A lot of business gets done over a meal and a handshake, or in the gym and the golf course. Leslie Whitaker is co-author of “The Good Girl’s Guide to Negotiating.” Write her at [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 One of the worst aspersions one can cast against a rising company official is that he or she slept their way to the top. Equally damning is the accusation of having put a lover on the company payroll. Contamination thus runs in both directions. Better to keep work and personal relations far apart. In reality, however, no workplace exists without personal ties, and yes, those personal connections can, in fact, increase productivity and general well-being of the workers. The problem is not in mixing work and intimacy, but the type of mix. Sometimes, intimacy not only destroys efficiency, but also exploits vulnerable workers, typically women. That’s why we have sexual harassment laws and other types of organizational prohibitions against the use of sexuality to determine matters of workers’ hire, pay, promotion, or dismissal. The question is not mixing sociability with work but fairness in workplace relations. Q: What is your advice regarding romance on the job? A: That’s a tough one. Family businesses, for example, often thrive on the intimacy of their members. What’s more, private secretaries and personal assistants can rarely be effective without considerable access to the private lives of their bosses. Nevertheless, in large companies and institutions close intimacy runs the risk of exploiting the vulnerable and rewarding the incompetent. So on balance I would endorse keeping intense intimacy off the job. Q: Is there a relationship between compensation and on-the-job loyalty?