A sub-trope of Unequal Pairing
and Office Romance
, this is when a person in authority specifically gets "busy" with an employee or a member of his/her staff.
A favorite plot device in many a film, this usually takes on one of any given number of scenarios: the master of the house banging the maid, or the mistress of the house getting naughty with the pool-boy or gardener, or the office manager having "business meetings" with his secretary while his wife remains unaware. Either party in the affair may be the instigator, though usually that role goes to the one who holds the greater power and authority. Usually, too, the boss or supervisor is older and more "experienced" than the employee
If either party is married or in a relationship (which is usually, but not always, the case in this kind of situation), this kind of affair comes of an unfaithful heart
; unsurprisingly, in such a case, this usually results in a Love Triangle
and all the problems that come with it. If the employee is female and the boss is male and
married, the employee may take the role of The Mistress
. Or, in some cases the wife/husband of either participant may know of the affair, but won't say or do anything about it because they want to keep up public appearances
Whether the participants are single or are married to other people, this kind of scenario opens itself to some discrimination depending on the gender of the employee in the equation
. If the employee is female and the boss is male, the woman may be seen as loose and only advancing her career by sleeping her way to the top, and she'll be branded by those who are aware of the relationship. If, however, the boss is female and the employee is male, then the man will be seen as extremely lucky, or, at worst, the situation may be given an indifferent shrug.
This kind of situation also has the risk of the employee eventually asking "Am I Just a Toy to You?
?", if the boss is flaunting his/her power over the employee just to satisfy a perpetually high libido. Often a form of Sexual Extortion
, if the employee engages in sex with the boss under duress or blackmail (though the reverse can also be true, in that it's the employee who blackmails the boss). This is also one reason why a woman may be portrayed as not having gotten where she is on genuine talent or merit
Compare Pizza Boy Special Delivery
, where the persons in question aren't in a permanent boss/employee relationship but still have sex in the midst of conducting an otherwise ordinary business transaction; and Teacher/Student Romance
, where the relationship in question takes place between a teacher and a student
(though sex may or may not be involved in this case).
Also compare Mentor Ship
, where The Hero
is in a relationship with his/her mentor; Bodyguard Crush
, where a person's appointed security guard harbors feelings for his/her client that may or may not be reciprocated; Subordinate Excuse
, where the employee uses his/her being employed by the boss as an excuse to exercise affections for said boss (though that situation may NOT necessarily automatically result in the two parties having sex); and Casting Couch
, where an aspiring actor or actress sleeps with the producer or director to land a starring role.
Note that this trope is not the same situation as the Sex Slave
, where the person with the lesser authority is in captivity and is forced to engage in sex under orders from his/her captors.
Also note that the Office Romance
speaks more generally about inter-office relationships and can be (and usually is) applied to co-workers who are on equal standing; this trope is specifically about a sexual relationship between a boss and his/her employee. It should also be noted that, although use or abuse of power on the boss's part does sometimes play a role in this trope, it does not happen in all
cases, as some instances of this are mutually consensual.
Be careful when adding real-life examples
Anime and Manga
Films - Live Action
- The Boys has Billy and Rayner the CIA director, though it's not so much a relationship as it is vitriolic, self-imposed hatesex.
- In Chew, Tony's coworker Colby sleeps with his and Tony's Bad Boss Applebee (to get Applebee off their backs) and later with his USDA boss.
Live Action TV
- This is a significant driver for the plot of Bridget Jones Diary (that and the Belligerent Sexual Tension with the other love interest).
- By seducing the chairman of Omni Consumer Products in Robocop 2, OCP psychologist Juliette Faxx is able to railroad her project through development.
- This is the status of Tony and Pepper Potts' relationship from the finale of Iron Man, throughout the rest of the franchise.
- This is the standard way to land a husband in the world of Thoroughly Modern Millie (give or take actual sex): you meet a successful man by becoming his secretary, then he falls in love with you and you get married.
- This forms the plot of Secretary, where Lee and her boss Edward engage in a sadomasochistic relationship.
- Played for laughs in Spies Like Us, when Fitzhume tells his coworker that he's arranged an intimate lunch with the boss. Cut to Fitzhume and his attractive boss in bed. And apparently, he just arranged the "intimate lunch" to try to talk his boss into finding a way for him to not take the Foreign Service Board test.
- This turns out to be a major plot point in Lakeview Terrace. Turner's wife was having an affair with her white boss, and they died in a car accident together. The affair resulted in Turner hating interracial couples, and it's the reason he harasses the lead couple.
- The Wesley Snipes film Jungle Fever has this as the trigger for its main plot, in which Snipes' character sleeps with his secretary despite him being a married man and her already being in a relationship. It's more remembered and criticized in-universe for the fact that he's black and she's white.
- The movie Disclosure plays the "female boss, male employee" version of this for all the drama it can. Meredith Johnson, the ex and new boss of Tom Sanders, tries to restart their relationship, but Tom doesn't want to go through with it due to him being married now. Meredith then out-and-out tries to rape him, forcing him to fight her off. The plot gets kicked off when she files charges of sexual harassment against him.
- In the Michael J. Fox film The Secret of My Success, Howard Prescott, CEO of the Pemrose Corporation and the main character's uncle, has an ongoing affair with Christy, one of his employees and the main character's Love Interest.
- In City Slickers, a checkout girl from Phil's store breaks into a party he's attending to tell him she's pregnant, so this trope has been in play. Played both for drama, and laughs:
Ed: ...that's pretty smug advice, coming from a man who mounted an eighteen year old checkout girl on the day-old bread rack.
Phil: She's twenty - and shut up.
Ed: Let me get you hot, Phil: "I need a price. Register Nine, I need a price..."
Phil: Cut it out!
Mitch: (warningly) Guys...
Ed: What did you use for protection, paper or plastic?
- Liar Liar: Jim Carrey's character is sleeping with his boss -- until the wish comes into effect and he makes a truthful (and uncomplimentary) comment about the sex they just had.
- A significant arc in a later season of Friends saw Rachel sleeping with her male secretary, Tag.
- On Showtime's Shameless, Fiona gets a low-paying job at a supermarket, and soon learns that most of her co-workers have been pressured into having sexual relations with the boss, Bobby. When she gets them all together to talk about it, some of them even defend it.
- The Office (US) has Michael's rather rocky extended relationship with his boss Jan.
- Six Feet Under: This happens between Kroehner's Matthew Gilardi and his boss. It doesn't stop her from firing him for incompetence.
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation had Grissom and Sara, although much has changed since he left and she left, then returned.
- In an episode of Quantum Leap where for the first time Sam leaps into a woman, his task of the episode is to keep a fellow secretary from committing suicide. The other secretary thinks that her boss is going to leave his wife for her; the wife informs the secretary in no uncertain terms that she's OK with her husband fooling around but she will not under any circumstances allow a divorce. It's also implied that she is the boss's second wife, and he met her when she was his secretary. When the secretary learns this, she tries to jump off a building but Sam talks her down.
- Skyler from Breaking Bad does this with her boss.
- Shows up a few times on Midsomer Murders, whether as "sleeping up the ladder" or actual romance.
- After Lois and Clark got married, one episode saw Lois being promoted to the Daily Planet's editor. Clark jokingly says he's looking forward to sleeping with the boss.
- In Without a Trace, Samantha Spade had a brief sexual affair with her supervisor, Jack Malone. It resulted in his marriage dissolving.
- Jack McCoy of Law & Order is notorious for having had this kind of relationship with his assistants, all female. When he first came into the District Attorney's office in the original series, Claire Kincaid pointed out that he'd slept with all three of his previous assistants (and married one of them), to which Jack replied that all the relationships were mutually consensual. Then Claire declared that nothing of the sort would happen between herself and Jack, to which he agreed...only for them to get intimate later on down the line.
- In the Season 5 finale of House, the titular doctor winds up having sex with Lisa Cuddy, the hospital administrator and his immediate supervisor, after she comes over to his house to help him kick his Vicodin addiction. Except their encounter that night never actually happened--it was all a Vicodin-induced hallucination on House's part.
- This is a frequent occurrence on Mad Men. Roger and Don have a habit of sleeping with their secretaries and both married one of them after divorcing their first wives. Peggy had a one night stand with Pete when she was still a secretary, and people falsely assume that she was promoted to copywriter because she slept with Don. Megan is propositioned by her female boss when she gets an acting job on a soap opera.
- In The Nanny, after four seasons' worth of Unresolved Sexual Tension between Fran and her boss Maxwell, they almost wind up sleeping together while in Paris, during the Season 4 finale...but Maxwell backs out of it at the last moment, offending Fran.
- On NewsRadio, news director Dave had an on-going relationship with reporter Lisa.
- Cheers: Sam hooks up with his waitress Diane at the end of season 1 (resolving the UST), and they almost get married at the end of season 5.
- Shadowrun supplement Tir Na Nog. In the title country (the country formerly known as Ireland) Junior Minister Patrick Flanagan was videotaped having sex with his curvaceous redheaded secretary in his office.
- In many class storylines of Star Wars: The Old Republic, you can romance your companions and technically, most of available companions are subordinates of the Player Character. Elara Dorne, the Republic Trooper's companion, even lampshades this, observing that intimate relationships between a commanding officer and a subordinate are forbidden by military regulations, but reciprocates your advances, anyway.
- Nadia Zelenkov in Command & Conquer: Red Alert is one of Stalin's advisors, and also his lover. She's actually The Mole for Kane, and kills Stalin after a Soviet victory.
- Invoked several times on Something Positive: Kharisma makes no secret that she'll sleep with anyone for advancement (and is later fired without ceremony when the boss' fetish goes from redheads to blondes), while Monette is accused of this by an older, uglier coworker.
Co-worker: At least all that lying on your back must have done wonders for your posture.
Monette: Well, seeing as your method gave you bad knees and rancid breath, I figured I'd do it differently.
- The Monica Lewinsky scandal, during Bill Clinton's tenure as President of the United States. For those who aren't aware, Ms. Lewinsky was an intern at the White House during Clinton's time in office, and the scandal came from her performing oral sex on him, an allegation he denied for a long while.