A thousand employees admitted to sleeping with their boss. We asked them how that happened and what followed. Here are the rock-hard stats behind dipping your pen in company ink.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt; Michelle and Barack Obama; Bill and Melinda Gates—
What do these power couples have in common?
They met at work.
Whether it was at a Chicago law firm, a sunny Silicon Valley tech giant, or on the set of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, work served as the background to their flourishing love stories.
But—it’s not just celebrities who meet at work. We all do. And office romance is no longer the taboo it was decades ago. Yet...
Not everything in the garden is rosy.
According to Vault, 58% of employees have, at some point in their career, engaged in an office romance (both random hookups and long-term relationships), and 18% become each other’s spouses. At the same time, most employees think office romance would harm their careers: 64% of those participating in an office romance kept it a secret.
Yes, dating at work can produce thriving relationships if approached with a healthy mindset, expectations, and boundaries.
But before you go off the deep end or sleep with the boss, consider both the benefits and drawbacks it can bring to your career.
Pros of Romance at Work for Your Career
First things first:
Why do we coworkers fall for one another? According to professor of psychology Art Markman, it’s pretty simple: we spend tons of time together at work.
But—that can’t be the only reason. If it were, people would jump into jobs based on the likelihood of finding a partner. You look for a job you’re passionate about, or at least interested in.
And that’s the real underlying reason for your workplace crushes. You share similar passions, views, skills, and interests. You work on the same projects and are equally excited when you succeed.
Research backs this up—people tend to fall in love with those similar to themselves.
Quite naturally, the more familiar you are with a colleague and the more you two have in common, the more likely you are to fall for them.
The good news?
Your office romance may positively influence your productivity and overall performance at work. Let’s look into the reasons why:
1) You know how they communicate and how to respond
As coworkers, you have a mutual connection already: shared environment and business goals. As romantic partners, you usually learn more about each other, start to communicate more frequently and, thus, more effectively.
When I collaborated with my then-girlfriend and colleague on a project, I already knew both her strengths and weaknesses (as well as her positive and negative character traits). Being her manager, it helped a lot to organize the working process so she would focus on tasks she did best. Also, we both understood triggers that could influence the work results, communicating accordingly and, therefore, reducing the chances of unexpected behaviors.
2) You know them on a deeper level
Picture this: you did something great for your team today. You go home to tell your partner, friend, roommate, whoever, the good news. You get into the nitty gritty details because you’re so proud of the work you did.
They’re trying to get what you’re saying, but they’ll never really understand what it means to you on a personal level.
If you’re dating a coworker, they’ll be the one to bring it up first, and even take you out for a drink for your success.
Having someone know you on this deeper level, where it’s easy to understand your wins and losses on a daily basis, brings you closer to that person just because they get what you’re going through.
3) You team up for better results
It works even better if you are from different departments of the same organization.
As far as it's often challenging to organize productive communication between departments—due to their different schedules, project priorities, workload, etc.—you and your other half may become those links to enhance the teamwork of two different departments.
Team up to share ideas, views, and constructive criticism for better time management and effective cooperation at the workplace.
4) You consult each other on work issues whenever appropriate
There’s nothing better than knowing you’re right when an argument comes up in your relationship. And you don’t shy away from telling your significant other why they’re wrong.
This dynamic helps you become better employees. Think about it: you know your partner is wrong but no one else is speaking up about it. You’re more comfortable to share your views and criticize them.
You express the thoughts honestly and with no fear of rejection, motivating other coworkers to be more positively-aggressive when persuading someone else to listen to their ideas.
It helps to promote a good environment and work efficiency. Also, love relationships influence our personality and attitude to the people around us; so your communication with coworkers may change for the better, too.
6) Your romance can boost energy and motivation to work
According to some research, people in love are more productive than ever: that's because of chemical reactions in the brain, boosting your overall energy and motivation to "move heaven and earth."
More than that, offensive rumors and prejudices about romance at work can motivate those in love to work better to prove a negative and show the positive side of their relationships.
But what about those rumors, huh? This brings us to the other side of the coin—
Cons of Romance at Work for Your Career
If you’ve become romantically interested in a colleague, do your best to proceed carefully.
1) Your productivity may tend to decline
Some experts insist that it may be challenging to separate professional and personal aspects in the office, which affects work performance negatively.
A survey from Namely HR Solutions says that 15% of workers are less productive when dating a colleague.
Why? It’s simple: riding high on Cloud Nine means you’re not grounded in reality.
You go to the bathroom to text. You take long lunches. You wait to see if they’ll pass by your cubicle. Meanwhile, you’re missing important emails and deadlines.
You’re not just in love: you’re distracted. And that makes you procrastinate. It doesn’t affect only your production, but the team as a whole.
What started with oo’s and aah’s now turned into murmurs and whispers from your other colleagues. They see your decline in work, they may feel angry (as far as every person in a team is responsible for group projects), their work dedication suffers...
Also, your distractions make other teammates work more to meet deadlines, causing misunderstandings and toxic atmosphere in the office.
2) Your company may have strict policies regarding it
About 41% of employees don't know their company's policy regarding romance at work, while it may consider it a reputational risk and prohibit them from dating coworkers, vendors, or customers.
Or, your company may require specific disclosures as for office romance, while only 16% of employees feel comfortable enough to tell HRs about their relationship. (64% of those participating in an office romance keep it a secret.)
Violating the policies, you risk a lot. Gossip or accusations (some companies have evolved the policies after the #MeToo movement) may cost you a career. So, make sure to investigate the rules before you start a relationship.
Also, don't hide your office romance: be open with coworkers and your boss. Sure enough, there's no need to tell everyone just after the first date or a hookup, when you're still not sure where the relationship will go. But if things do get serious, let people know as soon as you can to reduce the prejudices and the awkwardness.
Let’s be real—
Even if you do everything to keep your affair secret, coworkers are still very much likely to figure it out. As a result, your personal brand reputation may suffer.
3) Rumors can cost you a promotion
According to the 2011 research on flirting at work, people who often see it feel less satisfied with their jobs and less valued by their companies. So your romance at work may disrupt a professional culture, affect coworkers' morale and productivity, and impact a company in general.
Rumors will take place, especially if one from your couple is a boss. Others may perceive it as favoritism, diminishing the credibility of the boss in the eyes of the team—which, in turn, can cause your professional reputation to suffer: some may think you are in romance to get or give preferential treatment. It creates an alternate explanation for coworkers on why you're successful in your career.
4) Breaking up, you still have to work together
What’s worse than a bad breakup?
Knowing you have to see that person every Monday morning.
Life is life. Even if you were serious about an office romance, breakups happen. The con here is obvious:
It’s easy to get distracted from work because of depression, anxiety, and simply seeing your new ex at work and overanalyzing communications—or miscommunications. It’s easy for office productivity to fail under any negative circumstances, but especially when both parties in a failed romance work at the same place.
Not to mention, when breaking up, you may have negative feelings for each other but still have to work together. It may affect the relations between departments, or your friendly coworkers will have to choose sides. All this bodes no good to work performance: it may turn into separation and toxic culture.
So, what do you do?
You've been infatuated with a coworker for years, should you go for it?
You'll have to answer that for yourself.
How about we take it from those who have been there before? A vast majority (72%) believe the positives outweigh the negatives and would engage in an office romance again if given the chance.
I just hope you know all the risks and do everything right to avoid them.
If approached with a healthy mindset, expectations, and boundaries, your office romance may actually boost the motivation and overall work performance in the department (and be fun!).
Just make sure you learn the company policies and follow them. And—
If things get serious, don't hide your office romance from colleagues, and don't leave any place for negative rumors and gossip.
Thanks for reading! Now, let’s get the discussion going:
- Have you ever dated a coworker? How did it unfold?
- Do you think it’s okay for companies to have strict policies on romance at work?
- What do you think is most difficult when being in a relationship with someone from work?
Let us know in the comments!