Are Office Romances OK?

Training & Development, May 1994 | Go to article overview

Are Office Romances OK?


Yes! Office romances are OK, said most of the respondents to February's "FaxForum" survey. Seventy percent said that they have been romantically involved with someone they met at work.

Most of the people who answered the survey agree: Romantic relationships between co-workers are acceptable if the couples maintain their professional demeanor at work. Respondents said that coupled co-workers should act like adults, not high-school students. The word "mature" was used a lot. Our respondents definitely frown on PDAs (public displays of affection). Said one, "Most people have the good sense to be discreet. After all, they don't want to face the humiliation of a public breakup."

Three-fourths think romances are OK even between people at different levels of the organization. One respondent said it is preferable that "natural boundaries" (separate roles or geographical locations) exist between involved employees. A few respondents worried that romantic relationships between teammates or members of the same departments might cause problems. Several said that "direct reports" shouldn't get romantically involved.

Virtually all of the respondents said that their organizations don't have formal policies prohibiting dating between co-workers. But more than half think that companies should have some kind of dating policy--mainly to outline the expectations of behavior for involved couples, not to ban romances. In fact, one respondent proposed that policies say, "relationships allowed." A few said that organizations should have policies prohibiting dating between supervisors and their subordinates only.

The overall consensus was that companies have no business interfering in employees' private lives. Said one respondent, "You can't regulate private conduct. It smacks of 'Big Brotherism,' even though such relationships can be absolute disasters."

In answer to the question, you think it is possible for co-workers to be romantically involved without causing problems for themselves or others in the office?" some respondents gave a resounding "no," even when they thought romances shouldn't be prohibited by organizational policy. One made a list of the potential problems: "jealousy, competition, misunderstanding, and 'taking things personally. …

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