Should co-workers be allowed to date?
- A Society for Human Resources Management survey from 2021 revealed that 34% of US workers 'have been involved in or are currently involved in a workplace romance.'
- A 2021 Rebootonline.com poll found that 21% of people 'have quit a job due to awkwardness following a doomed romance.'
- Whether or not the company requires it, 'only up to five percent of employees will report a romance to the Human Resources department,' according to HG Legal Resources.
- Statista reports that in 2017, 11% of heterosexual US couples met at work.
It’s unrealistic and unfair to prohibit employees from engaging in relationships. While some companies continue to ban such behaviors, research shows said policies are ineffective. In fact, studies reveal forbidding something typically leads to thinking about it or wanting it more.
Today, more couples meet at work than while out at night, online, or through friends. Co-workers spend a lot of time together and often form friendships. Psychologically, it’s proven that as people become more familiar, they also tend to become more attractive. Denying all of these known facts is negligent and counter-productive.
Telling co-workers not to date often leads to secret relationships, which can result in worse outcomes for all. With policies that acknowledge, allow for, and support employees who work alongside one another in the event of their relationships evolving into something more intimate, companies and their leadership can boost morale while promoting mature realism and clear communication.
When accepted and handled professionally, romantic bonds between colleagues can be beneficial to work objectives and the work environment as a whole. There are countless examples of thriving businesses that are successfully run by couples. As individuals become closer, their communication can improve, leading to more significant creative and collaborative potential and success in the workplace.
Adults’ romantic and life choices should not be dictated by their employers. Imagine for a moment if a boss were to assign their employees a curfew in their off-work, evening hours. Clearly, this is overstepping, as is attempting to deem who is allowed to date whom.
While 75% of the dating market faces difficulties finding love, one place people should avoid looking for it is in the office. Sure it’s easy falling in love with a co-worker. But there’s a downside to such relationships that can impact individuals and businesses alike.
For individuals, dating co-workers can hamper their job performance. Couples who take extended lunches together or sneak off to be alone may suffer from a lack of productivity. Moreover, their colleagues could view them as ‘slacking off.’
Dating co-workers in the same direct chain of command can also create a conflict of interest while romancing someone who reports to you can never be entirely consensual--the other party may later claim they felt pressured to begin or continue the relationship.
Dating up is as complicated. The affair can become fodder for office gossip and impact the employee’s relationship with other colleagues. Moreover, it can undermine trust in leadership as others may believe such couples share information such as promotions and pay.
The ends of these relationships are equally messy. Remaining professional can be hard when seeing the ex every day. Breakups can also be socially divisive, with co-workers taking sides. And this can escalate if one of the former partners deliberately harms the other by sharing intimate details.
As for businesses, office romances can negatively impact brand integrity. For instance, the consensual relationship McDonald’s former CEO Steve Easterbrook had with a co-worker backfired on the brand. McDonald’s shares sank by 3%, incurring a loss of $4 billion.
With so much risk for employees and their companies, it may be best to look for romance anywhere but at work.
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