As an Human Resource (HR) administrator, I became aware of many office “relationships”. Although it is estimated that 1/3 of office relationships end in marriage, they rarely did in our company and most of them ended as a mini-soap opera which usually had high ratings for as long as it lasted. Even after the ‘in-house general public’ lost interest in the details, it still resounded in the halls at mention of a name:
“Is Hector* in Finance still after Giselle* in Graphics?”
Gossip dies slowly. Even after people leave the company, their names echo in the halls. And at lunch. Or in meetings.
It truly is not a good idea to date at the office. We are there to work, and budding relationships interfere with that mindset. If one has the misfortune to actually be in the department of the ‘lovebirds’, it can cause tension, stress and bad feelings amongst the group.
Especially if Giselle* takes longer lunch breaks with Hector*, or if Hector goes by her desk or office ten times in one hour.
And if Hector has supervision over Giselle, anything he does can be construed as favoritism. “Was Giselle’s raise higher than mine?” “I think Giselle had more days off than I did,” or “Giselle spends a lot of time of the phone with Hector while WE are we doing her work!” Infatuation or love does funny things to people. And love is better pursued out of the office than in the office. It simply does not belong there.
Many employees, in counseling conversations would confess their ‘office’ romance – perhaps because as HR administrator, this information is confidential and not to be repeated. Here are some dark aspects of a company or work romance. The situation is not an actual one but and been changed, but basically is the same idea.
An unattached department head’s interest in an unattached subordinate caused a discriminatory problem and charge that she favored ‘him’ by giving him a promotion that had not been ‘posted’. “‘He” was given special training and seminars to gain the position,” that was not posted nor offered to them”. “‘He’ was given ‘special projects'” and his car was seen overnight at her house.
Other details and allegations were made. The new manager eventually was transferred to another department and the department head was relocated. HR offered the remaining department employees further training and education.
The reason why many companies have rules against relationships in the office is due to facts similar to the scenario above. It is not uncommon. If the department head is worth keeping, they have to relocate her. The same with the man in his new role as a manager. That means juggling departments and groups and office space and many other details that can be costly to the company.
If they are not worth keeping, they may be let go and they might turn around and sue the company. The co-workers might sue the company for discrimination. Companies do not like lawsuits. This scenario costs lots of money and time – and companies are in the business to make money, not spend it on employees’ personal lives or trying to right personal wrongs. As a result, they make rules against relationships in the office and sometimes banning married couples working in the same department.
Companies also experience work violence which, unfortunately, is also not uncommon. Threats or vindictiveness against an ex-love interest are out there. Some even experience bodily threats and/or shootings. Love or lost-love are strong emotions that can be triggered if the stress of seeing that person every day is heightened in drama. The whole department – no, make that the whole company – can be targeted and put at risk.
Be friendly at work, but not too friendly. Companies have lawful access to your emails so keep them business-like and not sappy love notes. You could be admonished for it. They have the right to do so. And who wants their personal life to be the talking points of the day. If you do end up in a work relationship, take it away from the office and not in the office. The best advice is: “Leave your personal life at home and focus on your job.” It could end in marriage OR unemployment.
*Names and situations are not true identities nor true examples.
Marie Coppola © Revised May 2015