Office romance on the rise

It’s Spring and love is in bloom—increasingly at the office. Recently, I was interviewed by ABC Radio, Australia, where love at work is also on the rise. Here is a segment of the interview:


How prevalent is office romance?

I did an unscientific survey among my colleagues and discovered not only had they had at least one office romance, some of them met their spouses at work.


Other experts report that dating colleagues is indeed on the increase. And it’s no surprise. Employees spend a lot of time at work and many of them have no intention of spending their careers with one employer, so the potential of negative career impact has been blunted. The influx of younger workers has brought a more casual and accepting attitude, as well. And meeting a soul mate at work is more likely than at a singles bar or at an Internet site, since people already share common goals and interests.


Does that mean it’s accepted and a good idea?

Not quite. While most CEOs I know admit that office romance, like office gossip, is impossible to legislate against, it doesn’t mean they have to like it. For example, they worry about sexual harassment lawsuits - by a jilted lover, or by someone else, who feels one of the parties is getting favored treatment. They also feel that productivity can be negatively affected. And what if one of them is transferred or fired? Sometimes it means both leave.


What are some of the negative ramifications of an office romance?

Like it or not, you are now seen as a couple, rather than as an independent person. It can limit your job promotions and lateral movement, since companies don’t want a couple working together or reporting to one another. Other people are on guard and filter what they tell either member of the duo, anticipating that it will be cocktail conversation that evening. Colleagues assume the pair has lost their objectivity regarding the productivity and results of the other. If the relationship goes sour, and odds are it will, a nasty break up can wreak havoc on an office. The drama can be worse than reality TV.


Can’t a relationship be discrete and professional?

It’s possible but it takes mature people who have clearly articulated the rules of engagement. Such as:

  • Never date a married colleague.
  • Never date someone who reports to you, or who could have an impact on your work.
  • Don’t use the company email to send love notes or engage in excessive online chatting while at work. You don’t want to give the impression you are distracted (and email can be monitored).
  • Don’t drive to or from work together.
  • Don’t lunch at work or arrange to meet for breaks.
  • Refrain from “walk bys” (where one of you walks by the others desk just to chat or “drop something off”).
  • Arrive at company events separately and network separately. It’s important to maintain your individual identity with your colleagues.
  • Avoid traveling on business together. It looks unseemly and makes people wonder if you’re focused on the task or dating/vacationing on the company checkbook.
  • Don’t discuss your relationship with people at work. It will be telegraphed on the gossip hotline. Believe me, they will find out soon enough without you helping them.
  • Have a heart-to-heart discussion and get agreement about how you will handle a lovers’ quarrel or a break up. It’s not a romantic topic but it’s important to set some professional boundaries if you split.
There are two aspects to your success: your performance and how you’re perceived. Ideally, your private life should be private but it rarely is - especially if you date someone at work.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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