find yourself hovering around the water cooler drinking cup after
cup of water in case the cute guy from finance walks by?
How many trips to the supply room can you take before that hot girl
notices you passing by? Although office romance isn't new,
statistics show that more and more people today are mixing business
A January 2002 survey done by Dr. Janet Lever for Elle magazine
found that 92 percent of the 31,000 men and women surveyed admitted
to finding coworkers attractive and flirting with them.
62 percent had indulged in at least one office affair (nearly half
while married or in a committed relationship), 42 percent admitted
to having sex on the job, 16 percent said it took place in the boss'
office, and 7 percent were caught in the act. A whopping 66 percent
felt that employers should have no say in who they date.
These numbers aren't surprising. Given the long hours that people
work, opportunities to meet singles outside the workplace are
shrinking. In fact, today's workplace may be to dating what the
singles' bar was in the 70s (minus the disco ball and bell bottoms).
Even so, if you decide to date a coworker, there are some things to
consider before taking a plunge into the office pool.
Companies are far more tolerant of workplace dating than in the
past. A study by Vault.com, a workplace and career center, found
that 87 percent of employers have no problem with employee dating as
long as work doesn't suffer. Inconspicuously find out if your
company has an intra-office dating policy (this doesn't mean an
Alias-style break-in to the HR offices). Generally, it's best to
steer clear of romantic relationships with supervisors or
underlings, as there may be legal implications both for you and the
company if the relationship ends badly.
If coworkers sniff out your relationship, you could end up living in
a fishbowl where every move with each other is scrutinized. Do
yourself a favor and keep it under the radar. "I'm dating a more
senior person in my company," says Susan, a 30-year-old
Seattle-based consultant. "If I spend the night at his house, he
drives me 45 minutes across town for a change of clothes so that no
one gets suspicious at work the next day." Set ground rules about
office interactions (no passing love notes in meetings, or
harmonizing "Endless Love" together in the lunchroom), and leave
your personal life at the elevator.
Perception is Reality
If you aren't discreet, be ready to deal with the negative
perceptions your relationship may create. A junior-senior
relationship may cause coworkers to perceive favoritism, even where
there is none. If you get or give any sort of advancement, there
will be whispers. Even stopping into one another's offices or
meeting accidentally in the copy room can cause some behind-the-back
Job Performance and Advancement
Being in love can be distracting, so imagine that feeling when the
person is sitting in the next cubicle or down the hallway. If you're
working on the same projects together, this can be magnified even
more. Your company will have little tolerance if your job
performance suffers as a result. This type of behavior may also be
remembered when the company is handing out promotions or downsizing.
Can You Handle the Breakup?
If the relationship ends, how will you feel seeing that person
throughout the day in the hallway, lunchroom and at the water
cooler? Also consider that right now you only see their very best
side (well-dressed, well-spoken, well-mannered) as they try to act
professionally and impress coworkers. Once the breakup strips away
this veneer, you may find a different sort of person underneath, and
you'll have to live with that reality every day.
Warning: Office Romances Can be Harmful to Your Single Status
This article is not meant to put a damper on office dating, just to
give you some pool safety rules before diving in with both feet. The
office is a great place to meet like-minded singles, and
relationships born there can be quite successful. A study done by
the AMA (American Management Association) found that 44 percent of
office romances lead to marriage. That's right, look around you.
Your future husband or wife could be collating next to you right
now. Don't say you weren't warned.