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Office Romances: The Dos & Don’ts

Office Romances: Pros & Cons

How to Approach an Office Romance (and How Not To)

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Lots of people meet their partners at work, and yet dating someone in the office is often frowned upon. Some companies even have explicit policies against it. So what if you and a colleague have been flirting and might want to explore a relationship? Should you steer clear? Should what’s right from a professional perspective override what’s best for your personal life?

What the Experts Say
There are perfectly good reasons why coworkers fall for one another, says Art Markman, a professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin. “You spend a tremendous amount of time at work and, if you put people in close proximity, working together, having open, vulnerable conversations, there’s a good chance there are going to be romantic relationships,” he says. Research shows that we also tend to fall for people who are similar to ourselves, says Amy Nicole Baker, an associate professor of psychology at University of New Haven and author of several papers on workplace romance. And “the more familiar you are with the person, the more likely it is that you’ll become attracted to one another,” she says. If you’ve become romantically interested in a colleague, proceed carefully. Here are some things to think about.

Know the risks
Before you act on your feelings, it’s important to think through the risks — and there are quite a few. Of course, there’s the chance that the relationship won’t work out and that there will be hurt feelings on one or both sides. There are also potential conflicts of interest. Markman references the dual relationship principle, an “ironclad rule” in psychotherapy that therapists cannot have any relationships with patients beyond their professional one. Obviously, the same rule doesn’t apply between coworkers — many people are close friends with colleagues, for example — but “having multiple relationships with someone creates potential conflicts of interest that can be hard to resolve,” he explains. If you’re dating your teammate, do you put the team’s or the individual’s interests first? There are also reputational risks. “Your professionalism may be called into question,” says Baker, “especially if people don’t see your motives for entering the relationship as positive.” Some colleagues may think you’re giving your romantic partner preferential treatment or vice versa. “Having a relationship with someone higher up in the organization can create an alternate explanation for why you’re succeeding,” says Markman.

Have the best intentions
If you’re aware of these risks and still want to move forward, research shows that your intentions matter. Your coworkers’ reactions will reflect what they believe your motives to be, says Baker. When they perceive you as having “ego motive” — seeking out the relationship to serve your own needs, whether it’s to get ahead in your company or for your own excitement — they will clearly think of you less favorably. On the other hand, “studies show that coworkers are generally positive if they perceive that you’re falling in love and genuinely care about each other,” she says. So, before you jump in, check your motives and consider how others will perceive them. Having positive intentions at the start may also help guard against hurt feelings and misunderstandings should the romance eventually end.

Know your company’s policies
Many companies prohibit employees from dating coworkers, vendors, customers, or suppliers, or require specific disclosures, so be sure to investigate before you start a relationship. “Follow the rules and try to understand the reasons they’re in place,” Baker says. “You ignore them at your peril.” If you’ve already violated a policy, she suggests you “come clean early” because “the longer you persist, the worse the consequences will be.” Markman says that he’s seen companies “lifting those regulations in recent years both because they’re hard to enforce and they haven’t changed behavior.” For him, this is a positive. “The rules need to recognize the reality of the world and, when it comes to workplace relationships, we want to teach people principles for making good, adult decisions, not to legislate through punishment.” Rules are also evolving because of the #MeToo movement. For example, at Facebook and Google, you can only ask a coworker out once, and if the person says no or gives you an ambiguous response (“Sorry, I’m busy”) you’re not allowed to ask again.

Stay away from your boss and your direct reports
No matter what your intentions are, it’s best not to date your managers or subordinates. “It is a bad idea to get involved with anybody who is in your chain of command — up or down,” says Markman. Baker agrees: ““We know from research that the outcomes aren’t as good; the perceptions are more negative.” That’s because this is where conflicts of interest are most stark. It’s hard to be objective when giving someone you’re dating a performance review, for example. And you don’t want people to think that you’re being unduly favored; it can erode your own confidence and hurt the team’s morale. Both experts acknowledge that boss-employee romances do happen — and sometimes those relationships work out. However, if that’s something you’d like to consider, they suggest you “take action immediately” to transfer to a new boss or reassign your direct report to another team.

Don’t hide it
Both Markman and Baker agree that it’s important to be open about the relationship with your coworkers and boss. This might be tough advice to follow, especially if you’re not sure where the relationship will go. “You don’t have to tell them after the first date,” says Markman, “but letting people know reduces the awkwardness” and increases the likelihood that they’ll be positive about the relationship. Besides, “if you don’t tell anybody, people will still figure it out,” he says. Baker adds that clandestine romances tend to have poorer outcomes and can be “corrosive” to other relationships. “Secrets tend to erode our trust in one another and, when the truth comes out, people are going to feel lied to,” she explains. Keep your disclosure simple and straightforward. You might say something like, “We went on a few dates, but I’m sure you can understand that I don’t want to get into more detail about our personal lives.”

Make sure that your manager is one of the first to be informed. If this feels unnecessary, put yourself in your manager’s shoes, Markman says. Wouldn’t you want to know that two people on your team, or a team member and a colleague from another group, were dating? Then “let your bosses make the call on how to staff you. They may prefer you not work together. By telling them, you’re allowing them to make informed decisions.” Whether or not to tell HR will depend on the company policy and on how much you trust your colleagues in the department to handle the situation. “If you have an HR department that’s good, you might want to have a record, especially if the relationship goes sour,” says Markman. “If your HR dept has a reputation for being all about checking boxes, don’t tell them.” There’s another important caveat: LGBTQ employees may not feel comfortable disclosing a relationship with a coworker, especially since you can still be fired in many states for being gay. “While many workplaces have become more diverse, they haven’t necessarily become more inclusive,” Markman says. “Many people may not feel comfortable talking about their relationships.”

Set boundaries
While you want people to know what’s going on, you don’t have to subject them to your relationship. Baker and her colleagues did research on flirting at work and found in two different studies that “People who frequently witness flirting… report feeling less satisfied in their jobs, and they feel less valued by their company. They’re more likely to give a negative appraisal of the work environment, and they may even consider leaving,” she says. She points out that these are correlations, not causations, but it’s a good argument for avoiding any public displays of affection and remaining professional at all times. “It makes life easier and less uncomfortable for the people around you,” she says. You also want to set up boundaries with your partner. “As unromantic as it may seem, you need to have an open conversation about how to talk about your relationship and how you’ll navigate the risks,” says Markman. We like to believe that “love takes precedent over other things — that’s why there are fewer prenuptial agreements than there should be” but you don’t want to “let work tensions spill into your relationship and vice versa.” Consider having rules about when and how you’ll talk about work — and your relationship — with one another.

If you break up
Of course, not every romance will work out and if you or your partner decide to end things, it’s best to be prepared. There’s no reason to mince words: “It’s going to be very painful,” says Baker, but “you still need to be open about the break up.” Markman agrees: ““If you’ve been telling people about the relationship, keep them updated on the fact that you’re no longer together.” And try to remain as professional as possible. “Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship has said something less than sympathetic about an ex,” says Markman, “but you have to be civil as if nothing ever went wrong and hope that the other person will do the same.” If you find it too awkward or painful to continue working alongside the person, you may need to consider leaving the job or at least transferring to another department. No matter how the relationship turns out, it’s worth following some of Baker’s most simple advice: “The less drama, the better.”

Principles to Remember


  • Know the many risks of getting involved with someone at work
  • Familiarize yourself with your company’s policies – and the rationale behind them
  • Talk through what you’ll do if the relationship doesn’t work out


  • Pursue a coworker if you’re not serious about a relationship
  • Date someone who you have a reporting relationship with
  • Try to hide the relationship from your manager or colleagues – it will only erode trust

Case Study #1: Always keep it professional
Heather Townsend and her colleague, Alex, were both working at one of the Big Four accounting firms when they became interested in one another. But they were hesitant about getting romantically involved. “We thought dating at work was faux pas. I wouldn’t even have more than one glass of wine with a coworker,” she says. Still, the attraction was there and, while they never openly flirted, they were “friendly” over instant messages.

After three months of uncertainty over where things were headed, Alex “finally said on instant message, ‘Do you want to go to dinner with me?’ and I said, ‘Yes.’” On their first date, they talked about how they would handle the situation in the office. “We were both very career-focused and agreed that we wanted to always keep it professional so that our careers wouldn’t be impacted.”

Heather told one friend at work that she was dating Alex, but they waited a few months before disclosing their status to HR. “While it got serious very quickly, we wanted to be sure,” she explains. Eventually, though, they were upfront with HR in part because they were at different levels of the organization and wanted to do it before any conflicts of interest arose. “We said something like, ‘We’re dedicated to the company and we don’t want this to affect our careers but we fell in love. What should we do?’” The HR managers responded positively. The couple worked with HR to make sure they wouldn’t be on the same project and that Alex, who was more senior than Heather, wouldn’t be responsible for her performance reviews or advocating for her promotions. “There was no way he could write an unbiased review,” she says.

Once they had that support, Heather told her boss and a few other colleagues. “That’s when the gossip started,” she says, “but we didn’t let it bother us. We kept working hard and rose above it.” Still, she was concerned about the potential impact on her reputation. “I didn’t want it to seem like I was doing well at the company because of who I was dating, and I didn’t want people to think I didn’t take my career seriously.” So, she and Alex made a conscious decision to treat each other like co-workers first and foremost whenever they were in the office. “I didn’t stop by his desk or kiss him on the cheek or have casual conversations. We would go out for coffee, but we always met by the elevator.”

Heather left the company about nine months into their relationship for unrelated reasons, and she and Alex wed several years later. While they no longer work together, they are still happily married.

Case Study #2: Why secrecy doesn’t work
When Becca Pierson (some names and details have been changed) worked at a large tech company, she was assigned to help a new employee, Meryl, onboard. After getting to know one another over several months, the two women started dating.

“We were on different teams, but we interacted regularly,” Becca explains. “Though I wasn’t her manager, I was more senior, which made me nervous. I thought it would look really bad to my team if they knew I was dating someone who was at the same level as them.”

They chose to keep their relationship a secret. “It was complicated because she wasn’t out of the closet,” Becca explains. “She’s from a country where being gay is essentially illegal.” Although the secrecy made “things more exciting in a way, more romantic and special,” it also caused a lot of anxiety. Becca couldn’t tell her friends — at work or outside it — what she was doing a lot of the time. “It was weird that no one knew the relationship existed. It felt like going back in the closet. I think when you’re hiding a work relationship — whether you’re gay or straight — it can feel that way.”

They dated for close to a year and were able to keep the secret that whole time. “I don’t think anyone ever knew,” she says. Becca feels like the secrecy ultimately broke them up. “I didn’t feel like it was a real relationship; it was almost like living a double life.” She even felt somewhat relieved when it ended. “I didn’t think I could do it for much longer. She wasn’t out to her family, and we couldn’t imagine how that would ever work.”

While Becca and Meryl remain friends, Becca says that the whole experience has made her want to steer clear from having another relationship at work.

Case Study #3: When it doesn’t work out
Jordan Lu (names and some details have been changed) fell for his coworker, Susan, after they’d been at the same investment bank for less than three months. “We hadn’t been working together that long. She’d joined the company before me.”

He felt like the romance didn’t present a conflict of interest because there wasn’t a reporting relationship between them. “Though I was technically senior to her in terms of hierarchy —she was an analyst and I was an associate — she did not report to me and I wasn’t involved in assigning her work, managing or evaluating her,” he explains. “We did sometimes work together as part of a big team but were never on the same team when we were dating.”

This was the first time Jordan had ever been involved romantically with someone at work and he says he was “extremely naïve” and didn’t consider the risks. “I don’t think either of us thought that far ahead to be honest. We sort of stumbled into the relationship.”

Since it was casual at first, they didn’t think to tell anyone. But when it got more serious they felt like it was too late. “It just seemed odd to raise at that point, several months in,” he says. “She was being considered for a promotion, so we didn’t want [the disclosure] to potentially impact that process.” They each had a friend at work — someone Jordan had known for a while and Susan’s roommate — who knew about the relationship. “They were both people we trusted to a high degree.”

Eventually, however, the relationship fizzled and the pair broke up. “That was the most awkward part of it all,” Jason says. “We ended up having to work much more closely on different projects, and, though it was always polite between us, there was definitely an incredible amount of tension and simmering resentment,” he says. “While it was never apparent to others, it was not pleasant.” The situation contributed to his departure from the company. “It was so awkward, and I felt like we both needed space.”

How to Handle an Office Romance

Workplace romances can lead to long-term relationships—and even marriage—but they can also result in uncomfortable situations for the people involved as well as their co-workers.

In the worst-case scenario, intertwining business and pleasure could result in an unplanned, unwanted job search, as people can get fired due to workplace relationships or be forced to resign because of a relationship gone wrong.1

That said, office romances do happen. (Just ask Bill and Melinda Gates, who met on the job.) Given how much time people spend at work, it's not so surprising that people may develop crushes or fall in love.

The Reality of Office Romance

A Viking study reports that 74% of UK office workers aged between 25 and 34 said they have been involved in an office romance. The majority of them would consider doing so again, even though they felt that it impacted work:

  • 53% would consider a relationship with a colleague in the future.
  • 29% have had a one-night stand with a co-worker.
  • 52% believe office romance decreases productivity and creativity.2

Tips for Handling an Office Romance

If your new relationship involves a co-worker, make sure your office romance does not interfere with your career—or your significant other's! Here are our best tips.

Check the Company's Office Relationship Policies

Before you begin a relationship with a colleague (or as soon as possible after it commences) take a look at the company policies about dating co-workers. Many companies, large and small, have hard and fast rules against relationships developing between coworkers. If it is against the rules, you have to ask yourself: "Is it worth it?"

Even if relationships are allowed, be discreet and prepare for any consequences.

Depending on the company, your human resources department may need you to sign a contract, inform managers or co-workers, or follow other guidelines or rules.3

Be Very, Very Certain 

Before entering into a relationship, make sure it's the real deal. Are you bonding over an intense project requiring late nights at work or shared frustration at a boss, or do you have a connection that extends beyond the office? Make sure you know the answer to that question before beginning a romantic relationship.

Maintain Decorum and Professionalism

Don't let a romantic relationship affect the quality and efficiency of your work. Bottom line: You don't have to keep your relationship a secret, but you don't want to have it so on display that it makes your colleagues uncomfortable. Plus, if there is evidence that an office romance is affecting work, one or both of you may be asked to end your romance or, worse yet, find another job.

Be aware that co-workers may be on the lookout for bias. You never want a co-worker to think, "Joanne is just agreeing with Jose's plan because they're dating." Avoid sitting next to each other in meetings, having lunch together daily, or acting in general as a unit. Also, do not send personal messages using your work email or chat client.

Avoid Dating Someone in a Higher or Lower Position

Office politics and hierarchy should be top-of-mind, particularly when it comes to office romances.4 Choosing an entanglement with a co-worker—especially one at a different seniority level—could dramatically affect your salary or movement within your company.

Office relationships are particularly problematic if one partner manages or supervises the other.

Your best bet is to avoid dating people you regularly and routinely work with.

Save the Romance and PDA for Outside the Office

No matter how in love you feel, there should be no public displays of affection at work. Stick to the same professional behavior with your significant other at the workplace as you would have with any other co-worker. That means no holding hands, no kissing, no affectionate nicknames, and definitely no supply closet liaisons.

Address Relationship Issues After Work

Never, ever fight or argue at work. Any personal disagreements should be dealt with outside the office. This is another sign that colleagues will notice, and it may cause suspicion that your relationship is affecting your work.

Plan for the Worst

Agree at the beginning of the relationship how you will handle a potential breakup. Avoid a messy falling out. It isn't just you and your partner who are involved, it's your entire office and the future of the company's dating policy.

If you do decide that either of you needs to move on, do it on your terms. Start a job search before you have to—and don't give your love life as a reason for leaving when you interview for your next role.

Consider Leaving the Company

You may decide that your new relationship is more important to you than your current job. If the relationship does get serious, one member should strongly consider a new position outside the company. That way, you can separate your career paths from the relationship.

Office romance: The good, the bad, and the occasionally ugly

While 79% of Americans who've dated a coworker have tried to keep it on the down-low, in 83% of cases, colleagues have found out, a new report from Zety found.

Let’s harken back a moment to the pre-pandemic office experience: Most people are at work for approximately eight hours daily. The two most common sizes of US businesses feature 100 to 499 employees (5,339,918 companies), and 1,000 to 1,499 employees (5,976,761 companies).

There are lunch and watercooler breaks, and, of course, grabbing a drink at the end of the day. In other words, for someone single and ready to mingle, not only is there the potential to meet an appropriate like-minded person, there are opportunities within the construct of a day in which the suggestion of meeting up is perfectly organic.

Sure, a glass-half-empty type might say “the odds are good, but the goods are odd,” but work has provided many a person with good friends, and for some, romance. The career website Zety recently conducted a study looking at the state and successes of mixing work with romance, and have dubbed it a “tricky business.”

For 50 years, researchers have concluded, consistently, that one of the most powerful predictors of attraction is … proximity. Love may be miraculous and mysterious, but most often happens to people who are physically close.

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Is work the best dating source?

The Zety report begins with a surprising outcome: More couples (18%) said they met through work than the dating app Tinder and social media, combined. Zety surveyed 1,000 Americans, who admitted some conversely unsurprising facts: 89% of those polled admitted they have felt attracted to a coworker, and 58% said they’ve dated a coworker.

Apparently, secrets are, indeed meant to be broken, because 75% of respondents tried to keep their relationship a secret from colleagues, only to have them discover the romance 82% of the time.

Ethical matters

And like dating at university, there’s the issue of balance of power, a matter of ethics. While some couples can overcome it, dating anyone but a peer can have ugly results that include termination, and, at the very least, a hostile work environment. The study found:

  • 57% dated a peer
  • 24% dated a subordinate
  • 11% dated their boss
  • 8% dated a high-up, but not a direct manager

Both men and women are reluctant to date their direct managers, men (11%), women (12%), and men are more likely (28%) to date a subordinate than women (18%), but 14% of women and only 5% of men said they’d date people in more senior positions.

Zety’s report also revealed that for those who had sexual relationships with their bosses were “motivated by very universal passions, not at all specific to the manager-report relationship” as 66% admitted being sexually attracted to their boss, 52% wanted to have fun, and 12% slept with a supervisor in the hope of a pay rise or larger bonus.

Gender dynamics

Women are more likely than men to grow serious about an office romance; 72% of women said they dated their office crush long term, but only 59% of men did so. More women (25%) than men (13%) said their office romance had a negative effect on their work relationship with their crush. For 25% of women versus 13% of men, office romance worsened their work relationships with their partners. For 34% of Gen Z and millennials combined and 20% of Gen X and baby boomers, office romance improved their work relationship.

Romance results

So what happened in these romance-in-the-office situations?

  • 33% formed a regular relationship
  • 31% dated for awhile
  • 21% hooked up a few times
  • 14% slept together once, and that was it

Saying an office romance has a 50-50 chance of working isn’t just a flip comment: The Zety survey revealed that 51% of office relationships end in a break up (according to the American Psychological Association, 40% to 50% of US marriages end in divorce, with that rate rising with each subsequent marriage).

With age comes wisdom, and apparently, office heartbreak. Zety found that the older someone is, the more likely they were to have had their hearts broken, here’s a generational look at who eventually broke up with their crush:

  • 69% of baby boomers
  • 56% of Gen Xers
  • 44% of millennials

A glimpse into real-life office romance

Office romance “really depends on several factors” said A Very Good Agency owner Polly Beale, who met her business partner and husband, Len Dickter, 18 years ago, while working at an advertising agency in London, where she’s from.

“It worked for us because we met as [equal] creative partners.” The job required consultant Beale to work many hours daily with Dickter, who was “a very senior permanent employee.” A year into the job, Beale asked Dickter out. “We told maybe one of two people in the office who were trusted friends, but otherwise we kept it quiet,” Beale explained. “At the time I was in my late-30s and was a single mum.”

Focused on her infant daughter Lola, now 19, as well as the master’s degree she was finishing, Beale said she and the few-years-younger Dickter took their time, “because we both knew it was special.”

“I think it worked, because after a few months of dating, we went our separate ways professionally,” she said. “My contract had run its course, and I accepted a better job offer.” After dating two years, they married and had another daughter, Ava, in 2007.”

The couple eventually moved to Los Angeles (Dickter is American). “We now run a very successful advertising and film production company with other partners [in Los Angeles].”

Their initial work experience informed how they work together today. “We manage different clients and hold different roles within the company and it’s important that we respect our partners and ensure that our marriage doesn’t affect any aspect of our business,” she said, work relationships “can be very hard for colleagues. There can be tension, favoritism and stress if anything goes wrong.”

“Our relationship is very mature and settled. We have worked together for longer than we have been together,” Beale said. “We have to be very open with our colleagues and each develop separate professional relationships with them. We’re together a lot. We never bring any marital strife into work. That’s just how it is for us. It just works.”

Work vs. personal relationships

Whether they end up together or not, Zety’s report reminds there’s still a work relationship to consider: 54% said nothing changed, 28% said their work relationship improved, and 18% said their work relationship suffered.

In a situation where one partner is another’s direct report, changing departments or leaving the company may be the only recourse, but the Zety survey showed 57% of couples did not quit, 18% said their partner quit, 15% said they quit and 10% said they both quit.

Despite the draw and allure of dating a coworker, for women: 23% said it was a good idea, 35% said they didn’t know, and 42% said it was a bad idea; for men, 33% said it was a good idea, 39% said they didn’t know and 28% said it was a bad idea.

Just a hook-up

Respondents also addressed the idea of “simply” hooking up with coworkers, and 35% did so outside of work, 26% did in the actual office, 21% did at a work party, 13% on a business trip and 5% during a company off-site event.

“Men reported fooling around more eagerly than women on business trips (15% versus 9%, respectively), while women were more likely to hook up outside of any working space (42% of women versus 31% of men).”

Extracurricular activities

More men (46%) than women (37%) cheated on their then partners with co-workers. Interestingly, there was no difference whatsoever in the ratio of “cheaters” across generations.

Gossip guys and girls

Coworkers dating is too tempting of gossip not to spill the tea among the other coworkers, as 36% of respondents said they’d spill to other colleagues, and 21% said they’d report it to HR or higher management.

Younger generations are more loose-lipped, as 36% of Gen X and 31% of baby boomers would drop the knowledge of an office affair. While only 14% of the “older generation” would share the info with higher-ups or HR, 24% of the younger people would do so.

And here’s a stereotype broken: 23% of men are more gossipy, and would tattle by telling management or human resources about an office couple than 16% of women.

Zety asked respondents how they’d react to a coworker approaching and asking what they should about a crush they have on someone at work. Respondents replied: 42% would refrain from giving advice, 36% would encourage them, 22% would discourage them. People 39 or older would keep their opinions to themselves (47%) much more than people 38 or younger (37%).


Zety used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to survey 966 American respondents who were:

  • 59% male
  • 41% female
  • 9% were 24 or younger
  • 52% were 25 to 38
  • 27% were 39 to 58
  • 12% 59 or older

These 6 Surprising Office Romance Stats Should Be A Wake-Up Call For Organizations

This is the second Valentine’s Day since the #MeToo movement erupted in 2017, and these new survey results reveal that office romance is still alive and well. Despite organizational efforts to curb or discourage employees from engaging in workplace romance, these six stats highlight what most of us already knew—that there's no stopping coworkers from canoodling. Instead of trying to eliminate romance at work, the following should serve as a wake-up call  to organizations that they need to step up and help employees deal with their attraction at work.

1. More than half of employees have engaged in an office romance.

Workplace romance is not an issue that impacts just a handful of rogue employees. According to the survey, produced by job site, 58% of employees have engaged in a romantic relationship with a colleague. A surprising 72% of those over 50 years old have been romantically involved with a coworker.

Why does attraction at work happen so frequently? Social psychologists have found that mere exposure to someone can increase our attraction to them. To illustrate how this works, college students participating in a study were shown photos of faces. Participants saw the photos of some faces up to 25 times, while other faces were only shown once or twice.  The more the participants had seen a photo of a particular face, the more they reported liking it. In other words, mere exposure to the photograph increased attraction to it. In a similar study, participants had short, face-to-face contact with one another. Once again, more exposure led to more attraction. Individuals preferred those they had seen more often to those they had seen less frequently. Repeated exposure to the same coworkers day after day has a similar effect and will naturally fuel more attraction at work.

In addition to exposure, employees have something in common with their coworkers (their work), and they have some additional information about their coworkers that they might not have about a potential partner they meet on a dating app or in a bar. They know, for example, that their coworker is at least responsible enough to hold down a job and is likely not a serial killer.

2. Almost half (41%) of employees don’t know their company's policy regarding office romances.

This is just more evidence that organizations are dropping the ball when it comes to romance at work. Those organizations that do have policies clearly aren't communicating them effectively, and most likely many others have no policy at all. If more than half of the workforce has engaged in workplace romance, it's critical that the organization guide employees on how to go about pursuing romance in a professional manner.

3. Almost one in five employees who were in a committed relationship have had an affair with a colleague.

Apparently cheating on a partner with a colleague is relatively common. Although 19% of employees admitted to stepping out on their partner with a colleague at work, a surprising 44% of employees have known colleagues who had affairs at work or on business trips. These relationships are particularly problematic for organizations, because these employees will naturally want to keep the relationship secret. If the organization is unaware of the relationship, it makes it more difficult to monitor to ensure there is no favoritism and to guarantee that professionalism is maintained in the office.

4. Most couples keep their relationship secret.

It's not only cheaters who keep their relationship secret, most of those employees (64%) who had participated in an office romance kept it secret, and only 16% were comfortable enough to tell everyone including their superiors about their relationship. Not only does this make it harder for organizations to keep an eye on the couples, but it makes employees become suspicious about whether their coworkers are canoodling. Rumors can start, even about platonic friendships, and when they're not true, the repercussions can be devastating.

5. A whopping 18% of employees reported having a random hookup with a coworker.

According to, 18% of employees reported that they had a random hookup with a coworker. Consent is the obvious issue with random hookups. If one party feels coerced, then it’s no longer a consensual hookup, it’s sexual assault. Organizations need to teach employees how to obtain consent before they hook up.

6. Almost three in four (72%) would participate in an office romance again if given the chance. 

This statistic should be the most worrisome for organizations, because it reveals that workplace relationships are not going to disappear anytime soon. Some have speculated that the #MeToo movement discouraged employees from dating coworkers, but this statistic suggests that the workplace is still high on the list of places to find romantic partners. With almost three quarters of our employees interested in romance at work, organizations need to step up and guide employees through the entire relationship process.

It's Valentine's Day and I realize it may not seem like the most romantic move to get your organization involved in your plans to hook up with a coworker. In fact, that is probably the last thing you want—human resources involvement in your love life. But given the high numbers of employees engaging in these relationships, there are bound to be problems. In order to make sure that everyone feels safe and comfortable with these relationships, it is imperative that the organization get involved—even on Valentine's Day.

The Dos And Don’ts Of Office Romance In The Age Of The Digital Meet-Cute

My friend Melissa has been working from home since her office closed in March.  When the firm hired a new account manager this fall, she found herself faced with something many of us know all too well: a new office crush. A very messy studio apartment in the Zoom background and a few other clues gave Melissa the sense that her new crush was in the “quarantining-alone” camp.

After a meeting ran late, Melissa checked her Slack one last time for the day and found a message. It was her new work crush, asking if she was free the following evening for an after-work “one-on-one.”  Melissa was excited, but a little wary. While the message seemed to be work-related, she couldn’t help feeling butterflies at the thought that she and her crush might be inching toward becoming something more than co-workers.

She’s certainly not alone in her situation. A recent study showed that 89% of workers admit being attracted to a co-worker and 58% admitted to dating a co-worker in the past.

So if more than half of us have dated someone we worked with, this certainly begs the question, is office romance ever a good idea? With so many of us conducting presentations from our living rooms, have the rules for office flirtations changed?

It’s complicated.

Office romance often carries negative connotations, but the data shows that it isn’t always just about having some flirty fun at work... In fact, 33% of office romances turned into a serious relationship. What’s more is that 22% of married couples in the U.S. met at work.


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And should we be surprised? Often, our social lives and our work lives are firmly enmeshed.  Now that many of us are working from home, a lot of the normal social activities that used to fill our calendars are out of the question. So, is it any surprise that we’re feeling some extra fondness, and maybe a few heart palpitations, for those fuzzy faces on Zoom?

So how do you navigate the murky waters of workplace romances, especially now that our work lives look so different? Here’s a few dos and don’ts to help you along.

Do: Know your company’s policy.

Remember back when your job gave you actual physical documents instead of emailed PDFs? How about when they dropped the 40-lb employee manual on your lap on the first day of your onboarding? Well, if you’re considering whether or not to become involved with a coworker, this should be the first place you go.

Workplace romantic relationship policies fall across a spectrum. Some companies explicitly prohibit relationships, while others may have no policy at all. In many cases, employees may not be aware of where the policy stands. A survey found that 41% of workers were not aware of their company's policy on romantic relationships.

Often a company's policy will not explicitly prohibit relationships, but will have strict rules about them.

Here’s what a common policy might look like:


  • Employees engaged in a romantic relationship must disclose the nature of their relationship to HR or another relevant department
  • Employees must sign a “love contract” indicating that the both are entering into the relationship consensually
  • Certain certain types of relationships (e.g. between employees in different managerial levels) are banned
  • Public displays of affection in a work environment are banned


These policies can vary greatly, so make sure you know where your company stands before you make a move!

Don’t:  Engage in a superior-subordinate relationship 

Romances between managers and subordinates are typically viewed as the most problematic. A study by the Society for Human Resources Management found that of the companies that have an explicit work romance policy, 99% forbid romances between superiors and subordinates. Most companies make explicit rules around these kind of relationship because of concerns of sexual harassment, favoritism, and conflicts of interest.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, and increasing visibility of sexual harassment and assault within many industries, companies have made policies more transparent and explicit. Google, which provides regular training to address workplace conduct, has stated that they expressly discourage any relationships between individuals in which one reports to the other, and would move individuals to a different department should such a situation arise.

Beyond the “letter of the law” there are many reasons why relationships between superior and subordinates are problematic. Remember that the optics of a relationship to the rest of the office may be much different than the way things feel in private, and you’ll never know what negative repercussions might come from such a relationship.

Do: Take it slow

A rule of life and love that applies well to office romances: it’s always good to take it slow. In fact, a wise mentor of mine always told me that if I want to speed up, I need to learn to slow down.

Whether or not your office has policies that discourage or forbid relationships between co-workers, embarking on a relationship with someone you work with always has the potential to make things at work a lot more complicated. Twenty percent of women and 13% of men surveyed said that their romantic relationships worsened their working relationship with their partners. And in 33% of cases, one or both ended up quitting their job because of the relationship.

It’s worthwhile to take things very slow and weigh the benefits and potential pitfalls before you begin a relationship at work. Remote work and social distancing provide all the more reason to move slowly. If things are really clicking even without the accidental brushing of hands on the vending machine, it might be worth exploring. But with your work performance, the opinion of your co-workers, and even your job on the line, proceed with caution.

Don’t: Try to hide it.

So, after all the nervous mental hoops and deliberation, you decided to take the plunge and start a relationship with someone at work. You might be tempted to try to keep it a secret, in which case you wouldn’t be alone: 75% of people who became involved in a romantic relationship at work tried to hide it.

But here’s the kicker: in 82% of cases, their co-workers found out anyway. Honesty may not always feel like the best policy, but it has a better batting average than keeping secrets.

Once you know where your company stands, it’s best to disclose the nature of your relationship to the appropriate people. If you have an HR department, you’ll probably want to discuss it with someone there. You know the culture of your workplace best, and you’re not required to send a mass email spilling your guts to the entire company. But transparency is your friend, and getting ahead of something by educating yourself can help protect you in the long run, in the event that any issues may arise.

If you’re saying, “But that takes away all the fun!” I would refer you back to the previous “Do,” and ask you very straight, “Is it worth it?”

So to answer that sticky question: Is it ever a good idea?

Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule.

You’re the best person to judge the situation, the person, and the workplace involved. Make sure you are informed about the company’s stance. And like with any other romantic relationship, put yourself first, and tread lightly.


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