Is it Worth the Risk?
Dating in the workplace can be fraught with danger. Objectively, navigating the normal dating world can be hard enough, but it gets a lot more complicated for couples that work together. Imagine if a boss dates a subordinate. Can the boss fairly evaluate the performance of this employee? What if the relationship breaks down? Will the boss treat the employee fairly thereafter? Is there a possibility for sexual harassment claims down the line? These are all factors to consider before engaging in a workplace dating situation.
According to a survey by the Harris Poll conducted from November 28 and December 20, 2017 that included a representative sample of 809 full-time workers across industries and company sizes in the U.S. private sectors, 36 percent of workers reported dating a coworker. Twenty-two percent of workers have dated someone who was their boss at the time with thirty-percent of those saying they dated someone who was at a higher level in the organization than they were,
While dating someone in the office can be risky, 31 percent of people who have dated in the workplace have married their coworker. In fact, some of today’s best-known power couples began their relationships while working together. Barack and Michelle Obama met when they both worked at a Chicago law firm, and Michelle was assigned to mentor Barack while he was a summer associate. They married in 1992 and have continued to work together throughout the rise of his political career. Would he have become President without her influence? Who knows but certainly it speaks to the potential value of dating relationships.
It’s really not surprising that today workplace romances are on the rise and many employees do not see the problem with becoming involved in such relationships. For some employees who work long hours the office has become the only available place to meet people. However, workplace romances can create a conflict of interest when a superior supervises the subordinate dating partner. Moreover, there is an appearance problem since other employees may know about the dating relationship and wonder whether they are being treated fairly? The perception may be that the dating subordinate is evaluated higher for their performance, gets better job assignments, and receives promotions quicker. Issues of justice arise here because equals should be treated equally unless there is a reasonable basis to treat one party better than the others. Dating an employee certainly doesn’t qualify.
If you are tempted to date a co-worker, ask yourself whether it is worth jeopardizing your position to do so. Do the benefits outweigh the possible costs? Of course, we can’t know the benefits when dating first starts but can estimate the costs.
Companies have become more lenient with employees who date, knowing that the circumstances of working long hours and closely together create the desire to do so. Just be sure you know your company’s policy on dating before you begin the relationship. Then ask your self how much you care for this person – is it just to have a romantic fling or something you hope will grow into a meaningful relationship.
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Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on September 13, 2018. Visit Steve’s website and sign up for his Newsletter.