Human Capital & Careers

Love Is in the Office Air

Forty-one percent of survey respondents say they’ve engaged in an office romance.
Stephen TaubAugust 16, 2004

Seventy-six percent of employed adults say they think office romances are more common today than they were 10 years ago, according to an online survey of 1,747 25- to 40-year-olds conducted by Harris Interactive and sponsored by Glamour magazine and

In fact, 41 percent admitted to having engaged in an office romance. Why are office trysts more prevalent these days? About two-thirds of the surveyed individuals cite the increased number of women in the workforce.

More interestingly, 59 percent attribute the phenomenon to a relaxing of taboos as a key reason. Still another 51 percent cite an increase in hours spent at work.

The rise in office romances could have wide implications for management, which in the past has tended to frown upon such relationships. They could lead to costly disruptions in productivity during the courtship and to disastrous office-wide tension after the break-up, critics argue.

What’s more, conflicts of interest and dissension could ensue if a boss and subordinate hook up. Still the survey participants agree that manager-subordinate relationships remain taboo. Only 14 percent say dating one’s own manager is acceptable, and just 18 percent approve of dating a subordinate.

Another concern among executives is that potential office romances could lead to sexual-harassment charges.

Perhaps employees are less litigation-minded: Only 28 percent of employed adults view sexual harassment accusations as the greatest danger associated with interoffice dating.

“Dating a co-worker can start out as a consensual relationship, until the relationship ends. One person may get upset and claim they were forced into the relationship, or that they didn’t get a raise or a promotion because of a breakup,” notes attorney Alan Kopit,’s legal editor. “The line between a harmonious relationship and sexual harassment can be thin when it comes to office politics.”

Other Survey Findings:

•Twenty-two percent of survey respondents say their company has a policy discouraging relationships between supervisors and subordinates, 37 percent report that their company does not have any policy on the matter, and 23 percent are not sure whether or not their company has any guidelines regarding workplace dating.

•Workers at larger companies (100 employees or more) are more likely than those at smaller companies (fewer than 100 employees) to be currently involved in an interoffice romance (20 percent versus 9 percent, respectively). They’re also more likely to report that their company has a policy in place regarding workplace dating (74 percent versus 45 percent, respectively).

•About two-thirds of employees (66 percent) at larger companies say they have flirted with a co-worker, compared with 58 percent of small-company employees.

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