Dangers of office romance
“Chile, you hear?”
“Hear ‘bout Jada and Brent?”
“Well I hear a li’l something, but I don’t like to talk what I don’t know.”
“What’s not to know? It all over the office that they going!”
Need I go on? This can be the typical conversation at work when colleagues decide to pursue a romantic relationship after work hours. You can be sure that it can spill over into the workplace, not even by design, just by the curiosity of human nature.
Some companies have strict policies about fraternization, or office romances to protect the well-being of its staff and the work environment, but the situation is hard to avoid, especially when people spend so much time together, solve problems together and seem to have much in common. Some boast of meeting their future spouses in the workplace and having happy marriages as a result. It may work for some, but there are some dangers to consider before you take the risk.
Let’s examine a few of them:
1. Unwanted involvement from co-workers. It’s hard enough being in a relationship and having the ‘two cents’ from family and friends. Imagine having your department or even most of the organization involved in your relationship. People will watch your every move, facial expression and conduct and offer a corresponding opinion about it.
2. Perceived or actual compromise at work. When in an office romance, your life will go under a microscope. Members of the team will be watching to see if your “love” will get special breaks and concessions, awards and privileges. The temptation may be there to turn a blind eye to infractions by your love interest, creating conflict among the team. There may be perceived loss of trust, respect, and confidentiality as co-workers may be concerned about company business becoming pillow talk.
3. Public break-ups and the consequences. Breaking up under any circumstances is hardly pleasant business. Imagine breaking up under the scrutiny of your workplace. Worse yet, if the love interest fallen from grace is a direct part of your work team or department, it can be awkward and uncomfortable for all concerned, and in some cases, there can be rudeness, snide remarks, insults, unveiled resentment and even open arguments. No matter how mature a person may seem when they are in love, sometimes a break-up can give birth to a beast you have never seen before who could make life extremely unbearable. As the saying goes, there’s a thin line between love and hate.
4. Having to transfer, quit or lose your job. Finally, you can stand to lose it all in an office romance. Everything you know at work can change, just to keep the peace. Depending on company policy, an office romance can present a conflict of interest or violation of what that company allows, causing one party to either transfer to another department or location or leave the job altogether. Worse yet, your love interest may be the one to determine that you should leave because the romance did not work out; then you have a wrongful termination to defend, costing time, money, and more emotional energy, not to mention a tarnished professional reputation.
We spend a lot of time at work, and it is always a possibility that romance can blossom. Some people have cultivated successful relationships and marriages that began at work. It can work once you know what it will entail. When you’ve had a chance to weigh all the risks and you decide to give it your all for love, hopefully you will join the ranks of those who made office romance work and not those who lost it all in the name of love.
• Simmone L. Bowe, MSc, SPHRi, is a seasoned human resource and organization development consultant and trainer, speaker, author, coach and mentor who focuses on helping business owners, leaders and professionals diagnose their people and performance problems and implement strategic solutions. Do you want to be coached through your next transition for yourself or your company? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.