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John Hollon on Office Romances

office-romanceToday’s guest post is from our board member John Hollon, VP for Editorial at TLNT.com.  Lots of people have office romances.  Do they ever come to a good end?  Read on for John’s take on the topic.

February is the month that everyone seems to focus on workplace romance, and we can all thank Valentine’s Day for that.  It’s also the month for all kinds of surveys that try to capture the latest trends concerning love on the job, and it leads to revelations like these:

These are pretty startling statistics that deserve some attention year-round, because they seem to help separate the two larger perspectives that people have about workplace romance.

  1. Perspective No. 1 – People will be people, and they spend all day around their co-workers. Of course some of them will get involved in romantic entanglements.
  2. Perspective No. 2 – Don’t fish off the company pier, and don’t date co-workers, because it usually leads to trouble on the job for all involved – and even a lot of people who aren’t involved.

I’m a big believer in Perspective No. 2, because in all my years as a manager, I have rarely, if ever, seen an office romance end up well.  In the very best of circumstances, the happy couple finds true love and goes on to live life happily ever after. Unfortunately, I have never seen that happen in 30 years as a manager.

What is more typical is that two co-workers have a hot and heavy relationship, but one (or both) brings some baggage that gets in the way – they’re still in a relationship with someone else, or one is married, or worse yet, they’re both married to other people.

Former HR executive Liz Ryan writes over at LinkedIn that, “Work is a wonderful place to meet a romantic partner, and we will all be better off when we stop freaking out over the idea that normal humans will have feelings for one another at work. As long as everyone knows that the workplace is not the spot for huggie-kissies such that other people could become uncomfortable, there shouldn’t be anything to fret over.”

Well, that’s easier said than done, because my experience is that although they sound sweet and lovely workplace romances only fuel office gossip, uncomfortable feelings from co-workers, and eventually, high drama and recriminations.

I wish everyone approached these relationships ion the adult-like way Liz Ryan describes, but just about any manager who has had to deal with the fallout from them knows that when you add love and sex into an office environment, people can get crazy and irrational.

Is that ever a good thing to inject into the workplace?

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Office romances are a bad idea. That’s because, in my experience, they go bad all too often. And spoiled office romances leave the participants — and the co-workers around them, who have to live with the bitter, sometimes litigious aftermath — much worse off as a result.”

I’m with Hank Williams Jr. on this. He sings that, “I’m all for love; I’m all for happiness.”

Well, I am too – as long as it doesn’t take place on the job.

I met my husband through work, though he was not a coworker.  Our union has lasted 28 years (so far).  I think love can teach us a lot about work, but love at work doesn’t always work out.  What’s your take on whether work romances can work?

 

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  1. John, the obvious conclusion is that HR managers are worth every cent they are paid since stuff like this lands on their plate.

    I agree with your core position: discourage office romance.

    The question is what do you do when it happens anyway?

    I worked in a company in Europe where someone got fired when romance went way too far, but I expect you don’t want to make that an automatic response (is it even legal to do so?)

    I suspect that all you can do is have a skilled HR person step in for an adult conversation to try to mitigate the damage.

    Should we also train people on avoiding office romance?

    Cheers,
    David

    February 20, 2014

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