By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
The ugly truth behind office romances, according to new study
Fifty percent of people have had some kind of romantic relationship at work, but love can hurt, especially when facing divorce or litigation. - photo by Sam Turner
With any luck you'll be shot by one of Cupid's arrows just don't get shot at work.

In a new survey by Vault, 50 percent of respondents disclosed having had a romantic relationship with a co-worker.

And while many Americans find their life partner in the workplace, Vault's study also shows the darker side of office romances. There's a reason why 29 percent of men and 43 percent of women said they wouldn't have an office affair again.


Nineteen percent of people surveyed admitted to being involved in a relationship at work where at least one of the parties was either married or in a long-term relationship, according to Vault.

And if you think you're doing a good job of keeping your workplace affair a secret, guess again.

Forty six percent of respondents said they knew about an extramarital affair taking place in their office.

Cheating, of course, is the responsiblity of the parties involved, but the workplace may facilitate inappropriate relationships.

Most cheating relationships start out as something much more innocent, says Shirley Glass in her book "Not 'Just Friends,'" according to Focus on the Family.

"The new infidelity is between people who unwittingly form deep, passionate connections before realizing that they've crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love," said Glass.

Glass said that about 80 percent of the cases of infidelity she sees involve a relationship that starts out as "just friends" often starting in the workplace.

"Today's workplace has become the new danger zone of romantic attraction and opportunity," said Glass.

According to Vault, the consequences of workplace infidelity are often severe. About 25 percent of people who had a workplace affair faced divorce or breakup because of it. Twelve percent said that their affair impacted their career.

Sleeping your way to the top

The superior-subordinate relationship is often seen as taboo. Besides the fact that many companies having policies against it, 33 percent of respondents in Vault's survey said that it is "unacceptable."

But that doesn't stop people from doing it.

According to Vault, 23 percent of respondents said theyve dated a subordinate and 16 percent admitted to dating a superior. In these cases, men were typically the superior and women the subordinate.

The problem with these romances is that they may lead to quid pro quo relationships, which is latin for this for that.

In extreme cases, quid pro quo relationships can constitute sexual harassment if they create an intimidating or hostile work environment.

Labor and employment attorney Mark Kluger cautions business owners about these types of relationships:

"I want managers to know how much danger these relationships put them and the company in," he told Bloomberg Business. "Any supervisor in a romantic relationship with a subordinate is immediately vulnerable to claims of quid pro quo sexual harassment."

Even if your workplace romance does not lead to an inappropriate power relationship, your co-workers may perceive it that way.

"The main problem is that if a supervisor and subordinate have a love relationship, their work relationship will immediately be complicated by the perception of favoritism," Kluger told Bloomberg Business.

The data confirm this, as Vault reports that one third of survey respondents thought that their co-worker gained a professional advantage through a workplace romance and 26 percent said that it made them feel uncomfortable.

Lower productivity

When the romance and butterflies of a new relationship kick in, there's one question that no one wants to think about what if things don't work out?

But they often don't, and Dianne Shaddock Austin, president of Easy Small Business HR, told Business News Daily about the negative effects on the workplace when office sweethearts go sour.

"Office romances that end badly can spill over into the daily work environment," said Austin. "Employers may find themselves dealing with issues of decreased productivity, or mediating between employees who are no longer working collaboratively with each other."

This may be partly why Vault's survey showed that 30 percent of people said office romances should not take place between people who work on projects together, and 24 percent said people in the same department should not become involved.

While the fallout of a bad breakup can have lasting effects on the workplace, productivity can take a hit even when the relationship goes well.

Austin told Business News Daily that employers should considering banning distracting behaviors at work, such as "romantic or sexually explicit conversations, open displays of affection, such as hugging, kissing, touching, blowing kisses and winking, and romantic rendezvous on office property."

But again, policies and prohibition have never really stopped people before.

According to Vault's survey, 32 percent of workplace affairs involve some kind of "tryst" or encounter in the workplace. Not only that, but 5 percent said that they had been "caught in the act."

These office liasons can affect other employees as well, said Austin, as they can lead to gossip and rumors, which besides being disruptive to office productivity, can give a negative image to the company if exposed.

Realistically, office romances can't be banned, or even fully regulated not just because many take place in secret, but also because many workplace affairs do lead to long-term, successful relationships.

Slate reported that 22 percent of married couples met at work.

But employers and employees who are bit by the love bug should be aware of the risks and liabilities of workplace romances.