Something in common. A lot of time together. Mutual respect. Hmmm. Why wouldn’t co-workers be attracted to each other?
They would, of course. And workplace romances appear to be multiplying.
According to CareerBuilder’s annual Valentine’s Day survey, four in 10 workers have dated a co-worker. This year’s percentage, 41 percent, is the highest recorded by the survey in the last 10 years.
And why not? Job sites are prime feeder grounds for building relationships. Millennials are now the largest generation in the workplace, and they’re building personal lives as well as careers. Many spend long hours on the job and have little time to socialize outside of work.
Pleasantly, nearly one in three office romances has ended with a walk down the aisle, the survey said. There are happily ever afters ... at least for a while.
It won’t shoot down Cupid, though, to point out that romantic workplace relationships more often end poorly — sometimes in court. Breakups typically are messy enough. And they’re more uncomfortable when co-workers have a front-row seat to watch. Some workers quit their jobs (hardly a simple thing) when the relationship fades.
But the end of office liaisons can be especially awful when attraction fizzles between a boss and someone who reports to him or her. Office romances with a boss accounted for about 15 percent of admitted relationships, according to the CareerBuilder report, and they can be troublesome from the get-go.
Perceptions of favoritism foul the workplace when the boss supervises the employee. And after a breakup, lawsuits charging harassment or discrimination often follow. Some high-profile severances have resulted in multimillion-dollar awards.
Of note in the survey results is that one in five admitted workplace romances involved at least one person who was married to someone else at the time.
The workplace is a microcosm of society, so one shouldn’t expect to encounter behavior markedly different from societal norms. But from flirtation to finalization, office romance can send out larger-than-life ripples that wash over those around them.
It’s impossible to “just say no.” Love blooms where it will. But it’s good advice to keep workplace dating under the radar for as long as possible. It will be found out eventually, of course. So, before it does, it’s best to take an honest assessment.
Would it be better if one of the duo transfers to a different work area? Would it pre-empt trouble ahead if the employee no longer reports to the boss? Who should sacrifice a job or a career goal because of love?
Those are tough questions. Sometimes, a company ethics code makes the decisions. Still, it’s hard to fight through the miasma of early attraction to see far down the road. Sad to say, one must know the statistical likelihood that a workplace romance will end.