Balancing Love and Work

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Love is everywhere. Especially in the workplace

A whopping 62 percent of American workers admit they have been in a romantic situation with a co-worker at some time during their career. But the most surprising thing about that number is the percentage of those who have dated a co-worker ended up marrying that person. At 31 percent, that’s a pretty hefty success rate, as far as marriages go.

Workplace romance is understandable, if not for the sheer amount of time that co-workers spend getting to know each other really (really) well. Since the work day takes up most of people’s time, it makes sense that sooner or later, attraction ensues.

But it isn’t just the time at the office that stirs romance. Other situations that happen outside of work hours can kindle a spark, such as running into a co-worker at the grocery store, or having lunch or happy hour drinks, or even after-hours work assignments together.

Keeping the relationship a secret is paramount to many of these workers. Some 37 percent do not think it’s a good idea to tell anyone about their working romance. To some, it even feels exciting to pretend to your co-workers that you are not seeing your secret partner.

So, if you are considering having an even happier happy hour, it may be in your best interest to consider your decision carefully. There are some negatives to ponder.

First of all, office romances rarely stay secret. Rumors get started and you both could end up as water cooler gossip. That can surely pour cold water on a hot romance fast. Resentment may set in and the seeds are sown for discord.

If the relationship ends poorly, you are still in close quarters with him or her every day. One or both of you could end up calling in sick more often or even feeling forced to resign your position and move on. At the very worst, a hostile work environment may lead to a sexual harassment claim or other legal consequence, especially if one of you isn’t keen to end the romance.

Anything can happen in a regular relationship, so it’s no different with your co-worker. Sometimes we think we truly know our significant other only to find out that the person has been married the whole time, or has some type of psychological issue that lies hidden until it’s too late. It’s one thing to walk away from a bad relationship in a normal setting, but a workplace makes it even harder. Imagine the horror of seeing your co-workers witness your personal life on a stage.

If you end up dating your supervisor, this brings an added layer of complexity, since you could receive special compensation or perks that your fellow workers don’t. Vice versa with dating a subordinate as well. Discrimination complaints can arise if promotions or raises are handed out with blatant favoritism.

Yet even with all the negatives, love usually wins out if it’s real. Some companies clearly outline guidelines for co-workers who end up in relationships. These contracts, if you will, signed by both parties, serve to protect the company and lay out the responsibilities of those involved in the relationship.

Companies realize they can’t stop workers from romantic relationships, but they want to be sure to protect everyone involved. After all, you may have found the love of your life, and you don’t want to lose that. The majority of companies who have workplace-romance policies in place do not even allow relationships between supervisor and subordinates, for the reasons cited above and many more.

Experts have determined where the highest preponderance of love exists in the workplace. Hands down, it’s the hospitality industry. Next in line are financial services, transportation and utilities, information technology and finally health care. Any job that offers close proximity fits the bill.

Interestingly, business leaders are encouraging more interpersonal relationships between employees. Google Cafés are designed to promote interactions across departments and teams. Apple has a new facility designed to promote worker relationships, idea sharing and collaboration.

These companies believe that when workers run into each other, it sparks creativity, better job performance, and more satisfied workers. Add human nature to this new paradigm, and you will most likely see an increase of office romances in the future.

The bottom line is that people will fall in love at work, at school, at church, at a ballgame, virtually anywhere.

But it’s the workplace that offers the most time. ■

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