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Dating in the Workplace

Blog by Pepperdine University student Victoria Dong

This week I will post five blogs from students at Pepperdine University. Professor Carolyn Galantine assigned students to choose a blog and post comments. I appreciate students' inclusion of my blog in their responses. This is blog # 2.

Last week at Happy Hour after work, I was chatting with my Fund Controller about dating in the workplace. He told me that “Americans wake up with coworkers,” which surprises me a little bit because workplace romance is mostly banned in China, especially in large companies. Among different countries and cultural backgrounds, dating in the workplace varies a lot. As Steven Mintz mentioned above, around 40% of people in the U.S. admit that they have dated their coworkers and this rate rises up to 70% in the UK (Wilson 1). Either the high or low ratio only indicates the magnitude of dating in the workplace, but what people should concern more about is actually the effect of workplace romance.

            According to the research called Romantic Relationships at Work: Why Love Can Hurt, there are two types of dating relationships in the workplace: lateral and hierarchical. The lateral romance describes that the dating couple has the same title and status within the company. On the contrary, the hierarchical romance indicates people work at different levels and positions date each other (Wilson 2). And the difference between lateral and hierarchical approaches may result in a different level of ethical significance of the workplace dating. Dating in workplace

            Based on Steven Mintz’s viewpoints, I do agree with him that there will be a conflict of interest when people date their subordinates, which refers to the hierarchical dating. The most critical issue is independence in appearance and independence in fact. When people at superior positions date the subordinates, the relationship will make them harder to maintain objectivity and independence. The superiors have the opportunities to assign easier projects and to provide better comments to the subordinates, which violates the fairness and equality among other employees. Additionally, the superiors may use their connections at the top to offer more opportunities to the people they date compared to others. These opportunities include bonuses, monetary resources, promotions, and other benefits. Even though the dating couple maintains a high level of independence in fact, other people will easily get suspicious about their objectivity since they are not independence in appearance. And the break of both independence in appearance and independence in fact will result in a negative impact on the entire workplace.

             As for lateral romance, there is less likely to have a conflict of interest if people date their peers who have different projects from them. However, there will be ethical issues related to the projectivity and quality of their work. On the one hand, “job productivity can be negatively affected by romance, because of long lunches, extended discussions behind closed doors, missed meetings, late arrivals, early departures, and errors” (Wilson 7). In this kind of situation, it is harder for dating people to perform the best of their competence and ability at work, which results in a lack of due care. On the other hand, workplace romance may have an impact on employees’ motivation. If one person has arguments with another one he or she dates and cannot resolve the problems before coming to work, they will extend their hostility and displeasure to the workplace since they will still see each other in the office. The negative attitude, emotion and feeling will largely affect their professional judgement to make decisions during the day, which influences the quality of their work.

            Therefore, based on my analysis above, I do not recommend workplace romance due to the possible unethical consequences related to it. However, human emotions and attractions are hard to be controlled. It is risky to start a relationship in the workplace so that think carefully if you want to wake up with your coworkers.


Wilson, Fiona. “Romantic Relationships at Work: Why Love Can Hurt.” International

Journal of Management Reviews, vol. 17, no. 1, Jan. 2015, pp. 1–19. EBSCOhost,


Student blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on November 27, 2018. Visit Steve's website and sign up for his newsletter. Follow him on Facebook and Like his page.