Office Romance: What You Should Know

Office Romance: What You Should Know

May 16, 2019 0 By Anthony Ekanem

The office is one of the places where people meet and interact with other people of the same and opposite sexes. Office romance is a situation in which two members of a business establishment – whether coworkers in an office or on a shop floor – become romantically involved with each other. Quite often, people develop good relationships with their colleagues, and some of these relationships go beyond the workplace. Many office workers go out with office-mates for a night-out or a weekend get-away.  In fact, a lot of people met their life partners at work.

As many people would say, business and pleasure should never be mixed together, but it is never impossible for two people to develop something more than friendship in the workplace, especially if they see each other every day and spend a good number of hours in the office. It is therefore natural for people to develop strong feelings of attraction for the opposite sex, as human beings always long for love and meaning in their lives.

As a working-class man or woman, before you find yourself entangled in an office romance, it is very important that you think things through and consider what other office-mates might say, and more importantly, what the organization might say or do, as many organizations have a policy against office romance and dating relationships.

Reasons for Office Romance

There are many reasons why office workers fall in love with one another. According to Art Markman, a Professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas, if people spend a tremendous amount of time at work, and working together in close proximity, having open, vulnerable conversations, there is a good chance there are going to be romantic relationships.

Most career people spend nearly 35% of their time in the workplace than in their homes. That accounts for about nine hours of work per working day. For this reason, most of the people involved in this kind of situation find themselves out of place in the social world because they simply do not have time to meet other people anymore. In fact, they do not even have time for themselves. That is why it is not such an appalling revelation when some surveys showed how 67.8% of respondents, all working but in different companies, are into relationship with their colleagues. This goes to show that because of the time constraint that most professionals have, and because of the lack of sociable time that they need, most of them divert to the aspect of getting a romantic partner in the office instead.

Most of those who are involved in this kind of relationship contend that their workplace seemed to be a natural breeding ground for romantic couples since they are together for more than 40 hours within the week. Also, they asserted that creating a relationship in the office is inevitable because most of them get along with each other.  Amy Nicole Baker, an Associate Professor of Psychology at University of New Haven and author of several papers on workplace romance, maintained that the more familiar you are with the person (your co-worker), the more likely it is that you will become attracted to each another.

Office Romance – the Good and the Bad

Professionals often spend significantly more time at the office than at home. So much so that there is always a generous amount of single men and single women who don’t have the time to meet new people. So the logical choice for them to meet other single men and women is naturally the office.

When single people spend at least 40 hours per week, in some professions 50 hours or more, with like-minded people of similar backgrounds and interests, romantic relationships are a tempting side effect. Although it is a logical choice to look within the office for romance, there are definitely good and bad aspects to the office dating scene.  Therefore, if you have become romantically interested in a coworker for whatever reason, you are advised to proceed carefully in view of the risks involved.

Listed below are some of the things you need to think about before you act on your feelings:

  • Success of the relationship. There is the chance that the relationship may not work out and that there will be hurt feelings on either or both sides.
  • Conflicts of interest. If you are dating your team-mate, do you put the team’s or the individual’s interests first?
  • Reputational risks. Your professionalism may be called into question if people don’t see your motives for entering into the relationship as positive
  • Perception by colleagues. Some colleagues may think you are giving your romantic partner preferential treatment or vice versa.
  • Alternate Explanation. Having a relationship with someone higher up in the organization can create an alternate explanation for why you are succeeding.

The Good in Office Romance

There are several advantages to office dating, one of which is obvious — the time you have to check out the available singles is during your work hours so no longer do the constraints of office hours apply. Also, the awkwardness of first introductions is usually eliminated as initial conversations are done within the pretense of a work environment, once again relieving the stress of having to make such a critical first impression since the impression would be based on some sort of work objective as opposed to strictly a personal objective like you would have in the normal dating process.

A second advantage is knowing the person before you date them, at least to some extent. The truth is, you may interact with a potential date several times on a business level and get to know something about their personality without being on the spot as you would in a normal social setting. This helps avoid the common pitfall of most early relationships, which is incompatibility.

A final advantage is the ability to quickly build a relationship as the time you see each other is significantly more than people who would meet outside the workplace.

The Bad in Office Romance

As with any dating scenario, there is definitely a bad side to office romance. For example, just as being in constant contact with each other due to sharing an office can be an advantage, it can also be a huge disadvantage. This amount of time spent together can cause a relationship to fall apart just as quickly as it developed.  Why? Because we all need some “alone time”, and seeing each other five days a week for eight hours or more, and then spending time together on the weekends makes for very little “alone time”.

Another disadvantage to the office romance is when a person must exercise their professional responsibilities which might include having to discipline or even fire the person they are dating. Although this might seem like a remote idea when you are in an office relationship, I don’t think you would be very comfortable having to tell your boyfriend or girlfriend, “You are fired”. Another example of this might be a need for one of the lovers to go out of their way to show the rest of the office they are not playing favourites; maybe even to the point of not promoting the person even though they might be the most deserving.

A final disadvantage to office dating could be jealousy, especially if the relationship is “under cover”. If you see your office-mates flirting with your date, the natural reaction would be negative, including punishing someone for something that is not work-related at all.

Dating Your Boss or Subordinate

No matter what your intentions for going into an office relationship are, it is best not to date your direct boss or subordinate. According to Markman, “It is a bad idea to get involved with anybody who is in your chain of command — up or down”. Also according to Baker, “It is hard to be objective when giving someone you are dating a performance review, for example. And you don’t want people to think that you’re being unduly favoured; it can erode your own confidence and hurt the team’s morale.” Both Markman and Baker acknowledged that boss-subordinate romances do happen – and sometimes those relationships work out. However, if that is something you would like to consider, they suggest you “take action immediately” to transfer to a new boss or re-assign your direct report to another team.

Before You Get Involved

Before you entertain the thought of dating that cute front desk officer, or any other colleague of yours for that matter, first of all consider the consequences of dating that person.  Balance the pros and the cons, and if you decide to move on with your decision, keep an eye on all the things that can possibly go wrong and have an understanding of how you might handle any of those situations.

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