The dawn of office relationships: Should you get into one?

1 in five employees has had a casual or random sexual hookup with their colleague.

1 in five employees has had a casual or random sexual hookup with their colleague.

What you need to know:

  • 58 percent of all employees have engaged in a romantic relationship with a colleague. 72 percent of workers aged 50 years and above have previously been romantically involved with a colleague.
  • 1 in five employees will admit to cheating on their spouse with a colleague while 44 percent of all employees will acknowledge knowing colleagues who have affairs at the workplace or on business trips.
  • Nearly two-thirds of employees who have office romance prefer to keep it a secret.  

In the modern working space, many colleagues have dated or even married their colleagues. Others have had episodes of office romance from time to time. And with sexual liberation and modernity, the office has also been a fertile ground for extramarital affairs. But in any given instance, office romance has different rules from an ordinary romantic relationship.

Why romance at the office happens

According to psychologist Dr. Chris Hart, office romances tend to score high on issues such as compatibility, familiarity, and the safety that the workplace provides. “Falling for a workmate is actually a normal occurrence in modern career life. The more you’re around someone, the more you tend to trust them. They feel familiar – and safe. Easier to chat with,” he says. “And because companies generally choose employees who fit into the corporate culture, people at work tend to have similar interests, attitude, values, education and income – and so they make ideal dates!”

Company policy vs risk

Before your office romance goes full throttle, check your employer’s work policy on dating within the office. For example, does your employer welcome the idea of colleagues dating or spouses working in the same environment? “Companies have rules on relationships at the workplace, especially pertaining to supervisors and their juniors,” says psychologist Elisa Mutua. She also says that while evaluating the employer policy, you must also consider the repercussions that a fall-out with your partner will have on your job, position, and performance at work. “There’s always the possibility that in as much as you might end up living happily ever after, you also have a bitter break up. And being colleagues, certain parts of your breakup will inevitably play out in the office. According to relationships coach Dr. Sherrie McGregor, one of the key questions you should ask is whether love and companionship are more important than the possibility of damaging your career, stability and consistency at work, and the relationship with co-workers.

Office romance etiquette

The only way that an office relationship will thrive is by following strict workplace etiquette. For example, Dr. Audrey Nelson, a corporate communication consultant and the author of You Don’t Say, opines that you must stay professional. This means that you must not use your employer’s tools to advance your romance. “Don’t use work emails to convey intimate messages. Neither should you turn activities such as work seminars and outside conferences into romantic getaways. Always remember that the office includes the parking lot and the retreat venues you’re sent to,” she says. Don’t turn your office into a bedroom or start making out in the parking lot.

Dating the supervisor

This kind of relationship will compound the already complicated nature of office romance. In fact, Dr. Nelson says that a relationship between boss and employee is best avoided. Nonetheless, Forbes, a global leading financial journal recommends that if it is agreeable for you and your superior to be in a relationship, you should sign a document indicating that the relationship is consensual, and was not born out of threats on your job position, sexual coercion, manipulation or harassment. Also, if you decide to make your relationship known to the human resource department, the partner who holds the higher job cadre should be the one to speak out. He should also be ready to take up the consequences, including a determination that both of you cannot continue to work in the same department.

Relations with colleagues

It will be a mistake for you to show favours to your office partner. Dr. Nelson says that as much as possible, strive to maintain the same demeanor you had prior to the relationship. “If you decide to start an office relationship, then you must be prepared to hold your partner in the same level you held them prior to the relationship. If you challenged their ideas, then continue to do so,” she says.

The work spouse

64.1 percent of Kenyans have a secret relationship with a member of the opposite sex who meets their emotional needs at the workplace. This is according to a 2020 survey that was conducted by Nairobi-based human resource firm, Corporate Staffing. These workplace relationships are mostly platonic. “They offer a close connection, support, and advice on both work and personal issues,” the survey report said. But their effect on the primary romantic relationships of the participants is evident in the way they are shrouded in secrecy. For example, the majority of those with such relationships never disclose them to their primary partners due to the conflict that such disclosure will instigate.

If you suspect that your partner has a work spouse, asking him to quit their job as a way of ending the relationship won’t work. This is because those who are in such relationships continue to nurture them even after leaving their current places of work. Their influence is far-reaching too. It may be the reason why your spouse quit, started a Master’s class, or changed professions. For example, over two-thirds of people with work spouses have had their career decisions influenced by their work spouse. The biggest test for these relationships is time. The majority last for up to four years with only a few lasting beyond the five-year mark. 

Takeaway stats: The rise and rise of office romance

Global statistics point to the fact that workplace romance is becoming normal and part of day-to-day human relations. Take a survey that was conducted by the US job site, Vault for example. The survey revealed that prior to the onset of Covid-19 pandemic in 2020:

  • 58 percent of all employees have engaged in a romantic relationship with a colleague. 72 percent of workers aged 50 years and above have previously been romantically involved with a colleague.
  • 1 in five employees will admit to cheating on their spouse with a colleague while 44 percent of all employees will acknowledge knowing colleagues who have affairs at the workplace or on business trips.
  • Nearly two-thirds of employees who have office romance prefer to keep it a secret.  
  • 1 in five employees has had a casual or random sexual hookup with their colleague.
  • Nearly three in four employees would participate in an office romance again if given another chance

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.