HR News & Trends

Survey: Nearly 40% of Workers Have Been In an Office Romance

Office romance

Love is all around us today. And not just in the hearts and cupids and balloons that decorate countless offices.

The latest CareerBuilder survey found that there’s a pretty good chance some of your co-workers are dating each other. Nearly four in 10 workers (39 percent) have had — or are having — an office romance, according to the company’s annual survey of 4,216 workers. And 30 percent of them have married an office mate.

For human resource managers, such news is more heartache than heart throb.

“Relationships between co-workers can, and often do, end in breakups. And these breakups can be nasty,” says Mary Hladio, president of Ember Carriers Leadership Group.  “Worst-case scenario, these breakups lead the rejected partner to file a sexual harassment claim against the employer. Businesses still have to protect themselves and their employees through clearly defined company protocol.”

Boss-subordinate relationship? It’s “criminally stupid”

That’s enough to cause HR managers to lose sleep. When they involve a boss and a subordinate or, worse, a direct report, that’s when things get downright dicey. CareerBuilder’s Valentine’s Day survey says 16 percent of those who owned up to an office romance reported having an affair with their boss.

“These relationships may spark favoritism charges and evoke concerns about breached confidentiality,” warns Hladio, who told Investor’s Business Daily that many companies discourage office romance generally.

That’s gentle advice compared to what employment attorney Kathleen McKenna told Forbes. A romance involving a boss and a subordinate is “criminally stupid.” If it happens anyway, she says they both should sign a “cupid contract” declaring the relationship is consensual and that the both understand the company’s sexual harassment policy.

How can you tell if employees are romantically involved?

They also should advise HR of the relationship.

How can you tell if workers are involved with each other? Allbusiness offered 15 ways to tell, declaring that if workers avoid meeting each other’s eyes, they never leave work together (or arrive together?), they both start putting in overtime — at the same time — and their vacation and sick days match up, well, they’re probably having an affair.

CareerBuilder also found that employees in the leisure and hospitality industry, leads the top five industries for office romances, coming in higher than the national average. That’s probably not much of a surprise; workers in that industry tend to be younger and work in environments that are more social in nature.

But coming in second and third respectively were IT workers and those in the financial sector. Engineers and accountants. Who would have guessed?

John Zappe is the editor of The Fordyce Letter. He was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. Never a recruiter, he instead built online employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Besides writing for ERE.net, John consults with digital content operations, focusing on the advertising side. Contact him at zappemedia@gmail.com.