Extraordinary Team Blog

Romancing the Staff: Dealing with Cupid in the Workplace

Posted by Joseph Sherren on October 22, 2013

Years ago there was a sentiment, “Don’t get your honey where you get your money.”

The best approach to office romance was to avoid it altogether. Often, workplace love affairs left a trail of resentments, hurt feelings and shattered working relationships in their wake.

Things were different in those days, as most couples lived within 10 blocks of each other when they met. Now, even though travel is common and global communication is universal, we still tend to meet people who live in our (work) neighbourhoods.

Today, there are many ways people develop long-term relationships: chance meetings, in bars, being introduced by family or friends, while on vacation, on the internet, at work, in school or on blind dates.

So which of these are the best for dating and long term relationships?  Surprisingly enough, statistics show it is at the office. Thirty-nine per cent of workers said in a survey by careerbuilder.com that they had dated a co-worker during their working lives.

Of course, managers should always be concerned when a romance between a manager and subordinate blossoms. It may cause coworkers to become suspicious about the fairness of evaluations and job assignments.

When people suspect favouritism, they’re less likely to work as hard so productivity suffers. In fact, in many corporations dating subordinates is a violation of policy.

Despite being frowned upon by most human resource departments, workplace romances are more likely to result in long-term relationships than those that start any other way. The conclusion was drawn following a study of thousands of couples, reports the Daily Mail.

Their research found that 14 per cent of couples who met through work ended up married, compared to 11 per cent who were introduced by friends. This happens because you already enjoy the same culture, similar friends and the same work schedules.

Did you know that Barack and Michelle Obama met at a Chicago law firm in 1989 when he was a summer associate and she was his supervisor? Other famous couples who met at work include: Newt and Calista Gingrich, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, as well as John Travolta and Kelly Preston.

It has been reported that numerous couples met while working at Tim Horton’s — some even had their wedding at Tim’s, in celebration of where they met.

Here in P.E.I., Dr. Peter Bevan-Baker, a great dentist in Hampton and leader of the Green Party of P.E.I., met his wife at a dental office where she was a registered nurse. Now, 27 years later they are still married and still working together in a dental office.

Other ways to meet are not as successful — 23 per cent said attempts to find love during a night out usually resulted in just a one-night stand. The research also found that vacation flings have the least chance of ending up in marriage.

Why are relationships that began at work more successful?

Nicole Williams, best-selling author and founder of WORKS, says work is the first thing many couples have in common. In fact, Williams said she has found that the more stressful the work environment, the more likely people are to connect. It is like they find a common foe.

When romance blossoms, what should a manager do:

1. Accept it: People meet romantic partners at work every day, so just be calm. Smart managers just accept it. You can’t stop people from being attracted to one another, so relax and maintain a sense of humor.

2. Discuss it: Managers ask for trouble when they establish an environment that suppresses dialogue regarding social or romantic topics in the office.

3. Don’t snoop: Employees are entitled to privacy. Create an environment where staff are comfortable with letting you know they’re dating. But, don’t ask directly!

4. Set boundaries: Do not write another policy, there are already too many. Communicate frankly and ask them to be professional concerning their personal interactions and be clear on what the boundaries are.

My question for managers this week: “How do you deal with the office romance?”