What About Workplace Romance?

ON VALENTINES DAY AND BEYOND

It can send you to the Honeymoon Suite or land you in the Heartbreak Hotel.

I‘m talking about romance at work. Is love in the air at your office? Has Cupid’s Arrow struck you at work? If so, your reaction can have a consequential impact on your professional and personal life, ranging from merriment to misery and everything in between. This is an especially important consideration for Millennials who might be new to the workforce, not to mention Gen Z on their first jobs.  That’s because workplace harassment of teens and 20-somethings has been trending upward in recent years, based on litigation, research, and anecdotal evidence. This begs the obvious question: Is workplace romance a good or bad idea? Opinions run the gamut.

❤️ What are the upsides and downsides?
❤️ Are the potential positive accruals worth the risk to your job, career path, and personal well-being?

Many people, like me, abide by the age-old adage of not mixing business with pleasure. Of course, I’ve worked closely with some very attractive women in my career — as many men have, and vice versa — yet I always strive to maintain professionalism within the workplace. However, views sharply differ depending on whom one asks. Although some co-workers end up dating and getting married, others end up with broken hearts and a pink slip — ouch!

Pros & Cons

In today’s hyper-paced Information Age, more employees are working longer hours and developing closer interpersonal relationships. I’m actually reminded of the lyrics sung by Sting to the epic song, “Message in a Bottle” by The Police:

Love can mend your life but love can break your heart...” — The Police

Despite the inherent risks, workplace romance persists in the 21st century corporate culture — in the USA and beyond.

While this universal truism applies any place, it carries added significance in the workplace — as your job and livelihood can be on the line. Is this really worth the risk? Despite the inherent risks, workplace romance persists in the 21st-century corporate culture — in the USA and beyond. Although the traditional work paradigm is slowly shifting to remote work and the virtual workplace, most people are still employed in a brick-and-mortar office environment. However, even in a virtual work environment, legal issues can arise when romance turns sour – such as harassing emails, tweets or Facebook posts. Therefore, let’s consider the pros and cons of workplace romance.

When Cupid’s Arrow Strikes

Even if you’re not looking for love, there’s no telling when a budding workplace romance might arise, due to the intensity of work and close contact for a long duration. A positive workplace romance might even elevate work performance in some instances, causing a boon in productivity. On the other hand, getting caught in a bad romance can cause employee performance and productivity to plummet, in addition to a host of other potential problems (some of which are noted below).

When I wrote about this topic on LinkedIn Pulse some time ago, the feedback was broad and varied. To wit: here’s a sampling of reader reaction to last year’s blog post.

“In many ways, work is the ideal place to meet your life partner…” – Vivian Chapman “You can get to know the whole person, gradually,” noted Ms. Chapman, “as opposed to the purely physical characteristics — then find out after they are horrid. It’s perfectly possible for responsible adults to keep their hands off each other during working hours and perhaps the relationship even benefits from it.”

“I met my wife at work…” — Gary Rush  “She was assigned to work with me. I met her, proposed, and we got married while working together,” Mr. Rush wrote. “We are now business partners and work together every day. My advice is to be respectful and keep personal issues separate from work issues — i.e., don’t fight at work.”

“Love between two people will occur regardless of the location…” – Paul Tolley “The times when I managed staff, if I was privy to internal relationships, I would talk to the couple discreetly, requesting they keep it professional and away from the office,” Mr. Tolley observed.  “I would advise them if indiscretions were reported to me, then I would be required to take the necessary action appropriate to maintain the team dynamics,” he continued. “This approach appeared to yield positive results, as I never had any problems in this area.”

Caught in a Bad Romance

While the upside of workplace romance is clear – falling in love and, hopefully, living happily ever after – the downsides are multifaceted. First, no one wants to get caught in a bad romance at work, of all places. A workplace romance gone wrong can have a negative impact on the entire office, as the situation grows more awkward and adversarial in a public way. What if other employees become involved, choose sides or act as witnesses if one party files a complaint?

Second, picking up on the last point, there can be administrative or legal implications if one or both sides of a bad romance become so nasty that it results in unlawful conduct.  This might involve allegations of sexual harassment, a hostile work environment, gender discrimination, equal pay, and promotions, or favoritism in terms and conditions of employment. In a worst case scenario, one or both parties might be subjected to an in-house or government investigation, sued, demoted, forced out or just plain fired.

Here’s a sampling from readers who cautioned against workplace romance:

“It’s bad for business, bad for the company and ultimately bad for the players…” – Martin Alianelli  “There are millions of potential partners outside of work that it seems childish at best to entertain an office relationship,” Mr. Alianelli concluded.

“I met a few women at work. I had a couple of relationships… ” — Bob Davidson “From my side, the relationships were intense at the time,” he continued. “They were highly distracting.  I was not giving my employers my best and I felt wrong about that. Yes, never say never, but IMO it’s a good rule of thumb to avoid such involvements. Usually, they don’t end well.”

My Take

There will always be pros and cons to workplace romance. There will always be potential risks and rewards. However, as mentioned above, workplace romance is sometimes unavoidable. With that being said, the conventional wisdom appears to be that it’s always best to tread lightly and try to keep romance out of the office. Try to focus on work when you’re at work. Professionalism counts and pays dividends. The perennial problem, however, is that work and romance are not always mutually exclusive and often overlap. Moreover, sometimes Cupid’s Arrow sticks. Therefore, regardless of whether you get stuck by Cupid’s arrow at work — or you’re shooting the arrow — always think before you act.  Consider both the short-term and long-term consequences.

“Assess your feelings; make sure it’s not lust but is in fact love.”  — Amanda Blakeman

This leads us to again ponder the perplexing question:

❤️ Does workplace romance really work?

In essence, remember that many jobs are temporary in the new economy and many romances are tenuous. On the flip side, true love can last a lifetime. Choose wisely.

What do YOU think?

David B. Grinberg
David B. Grinberghttps://www.linkedin.com/in/davidgrinberg-pr/
DAVID is a strategic communications consultant, ghostwriter and former federal government spokesman based in the Washington, DC-area. In 2018, he was named by Medium.com as a "Top Writer in Journalism, Government, and Social Media." In 2017, he was selected as a global brand ambassador by beBee.com and an advisory board member for AmericanDiversityReport.com. David is also a featured contributor for PRDaily.com, ThriveGlobal.com, SocialMediaToday.com, and GovLoop.com. His work in government and politics includes the White House for President Bill Clinton, OMB, EEOC, Congress, and global consulting firm GQRR.com. A native New Yorker, David has a journalism degree from the University of Maryland and was a reporter for BNA.com and U. Magazine (Colleges.com) prior to his public service.
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