Work Suffers as Office Romances Flourish in 'Playgrounds' for Lust

By Maxine Frith Social Affairs Correspondent | The Independent (London, England), January 12, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Work Suffers as Office Romances Flourish in 'Playgrounds' for Lust


Maxine Frith Social Affairs Correspondent, The Independent (London, England)


British companies are creating a "perfect playground' for rising rates of office romances, research shows.

Employers are causing problems and contributing to decreasing performance levels by refusing to recognise that workers are falling in love - or lust - while at work, the researchers said.

Rather than banning workplace affairs, companies should offer help and support to workers, both during their romances and, more importantly, in the aftermath of any break-up.

Chantal Gaultier, an occupational psychologist at Westminster University in London, has conducted one of the first studies in the UK into what she has termed the "workplace romance phenomenon".

She presented her research at the British Psychological Society's Division of Occupational Psychology conference in Glasgow yesterday.

Little research has been done into the scale of the issue in Britain, although a survey by the employment law company Peninsula in 2002 found that 79 per cent of its 1,274 employees in the UK had experienced a workplace romance.

Ms Gaultier interviewed people across a range of industries, including investment bankers, flight attendants and IT workers, who had enjoyed an affair with a colleague. She found that while the employees said that their productivity had not been affected during the affair, all admitted that their workplace performance had decreased after their romance broke up.

Those interviewed in depth for the study included a university lecturer who began an affair with a student. When she later dumped him she threatened to expose the relationship. The lecturer left his job voluntarily rather than risk being exposed.

In another case, two flight attendants formed a relationship after being rostered on the same journeys, but split up by mutual agreement and did not tell anyone about the affair.

A dancer at a strip club began an affair with her manager but, when the romance came to an end, she was sacked by the owner.

And when a woman with an IT recruitment company fell for her married boss, he transferred her out of the office against her will after he split up with her.

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