The Lure of the Office Romance

The Lure of the Office Romance
Image credit: Photo © Trunk Archive
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the February 2014 issue of . Subscribe »

Secret lovers, yeah, that's what we are. According to a survey of employees and HR professionals by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 42 percent of businesses had instituted either written or verbal workplace-romance policies, up 20 percent from 2005. However, 75 percent of HR professionals believe having employees sign "love contracts" is ineffective and simply causes them to hide their interoffice relationships. Evren Esen, SHRM's Survey Research Center manager, explains.

What did you find surprising in the survey results?
We asked employees whether they've been involved in a workplace romance, and I think the difference between what employees admit (24 percent say they have been involved) and what HR professionals are saying (43 percent have been aware of relationships) stands out.

What are the best and worst kinds of relationships to have at work?
In 53 percent of relationships, employees are in different departments. These are the best type because they're not actually in the same workplace. They may have a relationship, but it's not necessarily something that others may be involved in or aware of. I think the worst type of relationship is between a supervisor and his or her direct report, which were found in 8 percent of organizations. Proximity is an important guideline; the closer the proximity, the more likely it is to have a negative impact.

Over a five-year period, about 50 percent of HR respondents saw flings turn into long-term relationships or marriages.
Work is a big part of many individuals' lives, so romances can turn into long-term relationships. It's not so surprising ... it's just that there need to be some boundaries and guidelines to ensure that their relationship will not lead to unfair or perceived unfair treatment.

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