Workplace Romance: Bad Idea or Not?

Workplace romance is a controversial topic that gets so many people talking about. To some, it isn’t a bad idea, while some see it as a taboo that should never happen and therefore should be discouraged.

But despite being considered somewhat taboo, some workers still believe that they were fine with colleagues dating each other. And as much as fraternization is a headache for many companies, romance among colleagues has existed for decades – if not centuries.

“Even going back to the Industrial Era, there was still some discussion about people becoming attracted to each other in the workplace,” says Amy Nicole Baker, Professor at the University of New Haven, US, who studies workplace romance and organizational psychology. As far back as the 1800s, there’s been pearl-clutching around romantic interactions in the earliest days of white-collar work, with women and men in offices engaging in “behaviours that had no name”, according to critics at the time.

Workplace romances can lead to long-term relationships and even marriage- but they can also result in uncomfortable situations for the people involved as well as their co-workers.

In the worst-case scenario, intertwining business and pleasure could result in an unplanned, unwanted job search, as people can get fired due to workplace relationships or be forced to resign because of a relationship gone wrong.

That said, office romances do happen given how much time people spend at work, it’s not so surprising that people may develop crushes or fall in love.

According to Wikipedia, “Romantic workplace relationships involve a certain degree of intimacy between co-workers which plays a complicated role not only for those involved in the relationship, but also for the employees working with these individuals”. 

“Romantic workplace relationships have been known to create polarization in the workplace, employee distraction, and feelings of awkwardness among other employees”.

However, so just how common is this office romance then? According to a survey by Forbes in 2018, more than 50% of employees are either having or have had a relationship with someone at work.

Amie Gordon, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan, United States, who studies the psychology of relationships said the workplace is a prime place for two key drivers for attraction to develop. Spending so much time with someone in an environment like the workplace, “very likely could lay the ground for romance, because factors like intimacy and familiarity contribute to romance.

Similarly, research on Office romance has shown that being in the same proximity as someone for a long time can help spur a preference for that person; the more often we see someone physically close, and the more interactions we have with them, the faster interpersonal attraction builds.

Due to diverse opinions on the topic, Rulers’ World went aroundto sample people perceptive on the issue of Workplace Romance.

Paul Amaechi said office romance happens every now and then but he does not buy the idea. He said many times females are sometimes the cause of office romance as a result of dressing in a seductive way to work. He urged people to resist office romance, as the bad side outweighs the good side.

A lady (name withheld) said she would not advise anyone to get involved in an office romance. According to her, once she was involved but they are no longer together. It still hurts to see the man who broke her heart in the office, even though it is just a glimpse, when she does, she feels  like jumping into a closet and hiding. So for her it is definitely a no for office romance.

Mr Samuel said emotional affairs at work can impact productivity negatively, complicate human resource issues, and may result in losing key players. He encourages managers to help establish clear boundaries and promote a more family-friendly environment.

Oluwatobi Awoyemi said to him, workplace romance is not bad if it doesn’t go beyond two single people working in the same office but is not advisable for the married ones to get themselves involved in such an act. He said it is normal between the singles and it can even lead to some people getting married.

Mr Tobalase said office romance is really not bad if it won’t cause distraction for the parties involved at work. According to him “if the person you are in love with in the office does not distract you or anything, I think it is okay and if it does you can cut it off.”

He went further to say that he does not encourage office romance but people can get in it, if they are sure it won’t affect the level of their productivity at work.

Isiaka Abdul Kareem on his part totally condemned workplace romance. He said the work area should be for work alone and not for any kind of other relationship, which is why he is not encouraging it.

Mr Mayowa Omolaja said dating each other in the office is not a good idea as this could affect the task given to parties involved in the organization in a negative way.  He said some people might see nothing bad in it, but to him, it doesn’t make any sense, which is why he is discouraging it. According to him “I am totally against it. I can’t encourage such things to continue in the office because at the end of the day, you will want to get paid when you don’t carry out the task you have been given all in the name of dating each other in the same office. It is not something that makes sense to me.”

Balkees Idris said she does not see any big deal in office romance, if two people are in love and they are working in the same place, they can engage in such. She said love comes naturally, if the two people involved love each other genuinely, they are good to go, and the work space should not bother them.

Mrs Oluwaseun Tanimola said to her, office romance with the opposite sex is very bad and should not be encouraged.  She said co-workers can show love and care towards each other without dating them. She disclosed that office romance has scattered many homes when it happens between married people.

While romancing the person from your office may sound all pleasing as you get to see the person every day, it may turn into a nightmare if the two break up. Break ups are really bad; and when you have to see your ex-each day, without any escape, the break up hurts even worse. If the break up came from your side, you may be at the receiving end of harsh comments from your co-workers. The feeling of not wanting to go to the office to face your ex may creep up and lead to bad performance at the workplace; ultimately affecting your career.

The biggest disadvantage of workplace romance is that your personal life is no longer personal; it becomes the business of the entire office. Rumour of your romance gets in the air and suddenly your love life becomes the hot gossip of every person. The environment becomes tense with everybody talking and eyeing the two of you. The continuous teasing and judgmental looks may drive quick wedges between you two love birds. In fact, office romance may create differences between you and your teammates. If a teammate is on bad terms with your would-be-life-partner, chances are the relationship you share with him/her may turn sour.

No doubt, the bad and the ugly side of workplace romance are much more than the good side which is why romantic relationships are typically forbidden in the workplace.

Workplace romances that cross the line can encourage complaints of favoritism, spread rumors, distract other staff, waste time and energy, and often lead to claims of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment issues, whether grounded in a legitimate abuse of power or a hidden agenda, often result in higher staff turnover and poor performance.

Due to the potential conflict and legal repercussions that may arise from the liaison, many companies set up policy on relationships and dating which includes the types of relationships that are allowed or discouraged, as well as the consequences for the disregarding of such rules.

However, research shows that In some situations, a relationship may be acceptable if one of the employees transfers to a different department so that the two no longer have an impact on one another’s work status and some of the policy may also ask that employees who begin a romantic relationship alert their supervisors with the assurance that the information is kept confidential.