The Do's and Don'ts of Office Romances: The Right Steps Can Help You Manage the Relationship without Jeopardizing Your Job

By Thomas, Jerry | Ebony, October 2002 | Go to article overview

The Do's and Don'ts of Office Romances: The Right Steps Can Help You Manage the Relationship without Jeopardizing Your Job


Thomas, Jerry, Ebony


IN any other setting, Joseph, a 33-year-old vice president at a small New York City mutual funds firm, would have been more direct in pursuing a date with the strikingly beautiful Gayle (not her real name), whom he met one afternoon during the summer. But the location where he first set eyes on the young intern was at work, outside his office, which prompted him to take a more cautious and modern route to get to know her the office e-mail.

"I don't know if you remember me, but I'm the guy you met the other day on the communications floor," Joseph said in the correspondence. "If you are interested in getting to know me, scroll down and read the rest of this message. Otherwise, delete it right now."

Gayle, 22, who had attended an exclusive college in Connecticut, found her interest had been piqued, so she read it. Although flattered, she did not respond for a couple of days, because she had a boyfriend and needed to find out several more key things about Joseph. Being resourceful, she discovered that he had received a degree from New York University, had worked as a national correspondent for a major newspaper and had rapidly ascended the corporate ladder, landing in a lucrative executive position with a six-figure salary by age 30. But more importantly, she learned that he reputedly did not date women in the office and was currently unattached.

As a vice president, Joseph was able to retrieve some inside information on Gayle as well, learning that she was a steady worker who didn't waste her time. He was taken by more than her physical beauty. He admired her ability to land an internship at the company, which indicated that she was keenly intelligent, ambitious and not wasting her summers. "It was not like meeting her at the unemployment office," he says.

About a month later, after Gayle dumped her old boyfriend, the two went out for drinks. They have been together since, most recently traveling for a romantic getaway to the Bahamas.

With the rise in sexual harassment cases and sex scandals involving some of the nation's most prominent businesses, romance in the office has come under intense scrutiny. But changing times, which requires high-powered professionals to spend between 40 to 60 hours a week in the office, are making it extremely difficult for men and women to find the love of their lives. So many people--despite the warnings and negatives--are turning to the workplace in their search for their mates, lovers and spouses. To some people, this is a safer route than blind dates and dating services, or picking up companions at a bar or health club, because there is shared history with the new lover, from office meetings, conferences, retreats, daily greetings or from colleagues in the office.

The spate of recent scandals has led to various books, studies and opinion pieces in which experts provide oft-conflicting views on dating in the office. A 2002 study by CareerJournal.com and the Alexandria, Va.-based Society of Human Resources Management finds that 76 percent of the 663 executives surveyed say office romances are dangerous because of the potential problems they pose for the companies--sexual harassment claims, decreased productivity on the job and the lowering of co-workers' morale. A 2001 study by the Employment Law Alliance noted that more than two-thirds of all workers believe such relationships are harmful and can cause favoritism and retaliation.

On the other hand, a 2001 study found that 04 percent of women who had a romantic relationship with their boss reported that, as a result, their work situation improved. Additional studies note that one-third of all romances begin at work; .another reveals that 80 percent of workers polled know or have been involved in an office liaison. And another study by the Society for Human Resource Management, which polled some 558 human resources professionals, revealed that 66 percent of respondents said marriage was the most likely outcome for an office romance at their firm during the last five years. …

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