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Why not Date in the Workplace?

Dating in the Workplace an Increasingly Common Occurrence

Years ago the idea of dating a co-worker was frowned upon because of the potential conflict of interests and the possibility of a sexual harassment charge if the relationship breaks down. I believe this to be true and caution co-workers to carefully consider the possible consequences of their actions prior to dating someone in the workplace.

What about dating someone if he or she works in a different department? That would seem to be more justifiable, so long as the likelihood of working together in the future is remote. Still, one danger is people talk in the workplace and observed relationships can be blown out of proportion and stories repeated with a new spin and stories made up and posted on social media.

Performance Evaluation Issues

Dating one’s superior falls at the other end of the spectrum. These kinds of relationships are fraught with danger and not only should co-workers avoid them at all costs, but every organization should have a dating policy that prohibits them. One suggestion here is to say that if two co-workers start dating, one with performance evaluation responsibilities, it should be reported as soon as the relationship starts and one of the two should leave the company to prevent any possible biases from developing because of the dating relationship.

It’s really not surprising that today workplace romances are on the rise and many Millennials do not see the problem with becoming involved in such relationships. Some will argue that it’s natural given all the time spent in the workplace. Others will say that it might even improve performance.

Career Builder Survey

According to a survey from Career Builder, nearly 2 out 5 U.S. workers have dated someone within their company, and 16% report having an office relationship more than once. “It’s important to really get to know the person first and weigh the risks and benefits of starting an office relationship,” says Jennifer Grasz, vice president of corporate communications with CareerBuilder. While dipping into the office dating pool can be risky, 31% of people who have dated in the workplace have walked down the aisle with their office sweetheart, she adds.

Workplace Options Survey

A national poll of young workers taken by Workplace Options clearly indicates a change in attitude by Millennials indicating that dating in the workplace has become a more accepted practice. The poll results show that 71 percent of employed millennials (aged 18-29) see a workplace romance as having positive effects such as improved performance and morale. Not surprisingly to me, these youngsters focus on enhancing one’s self-interest rather than the potential for long-term negative effects of workplace dating. Our social media-driven culture is all about self-gratification.

The survey results indicate that while 40 percent of Millennials report no negative effects whatsoever from an office romance, only 10 percent of older workers shared that sentiment, meaning the majority of employed Americans feel more harm could be done than good. This can be attributed to a generational gap in ethics and values on workplace dating issues.

A summary of the poll results indicates:


·    84 percent of Millennials say they would engage in romance with a co-worker – compared to 36 percent of Generation X workers (age 30-45), and only 29 percent of Boomers (age 46-65)

·    Overall, 47 percent of respondents reported that they had observed romantic relationships in the workplace.

·    And 57 percent said that if they had a romantic relationship with a colleague, they would share information about it with others – either friends, co-workers or via social networks.

Issues for Millennials

One of the alarming results is that 34 percent of workers said they didn’t know if their company had policies governing romantic relationships in the workplace. This might be due to inadequate education on organizational policies and/or a culture that promotes an indifference to worker behavior so long as the job gets done.

Employees are human beings and as such we look to connect with another person. It’s understandable that workplace relationships might develop over time. After all, for some employees they spend more time at the office than at home. They also get to know their co-workers on a level that might build respect and trust, key elements in a lasting relationship.

Millennials need to be aware of the dangers of dating a co-worker. Let’s face it, most relationships don’t work out anyway, including marriages. Why risk losing a job and possibly harming one’s reputation for being a trustworthy employee. Look outside the organization for your “soul mate” and, if you feel you have found that person at work, one of the two should seek employment elsewhere.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz on June 23, 2016. Dr. Mintz is Emeritus Professor from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at