I never thought office romance was a big issue. I personally have seen a few people dating their co-workers. In one case, the guy who over-protected his girlfriend was somewhat disturbing, though.
Americans are less tolerant of office romance, possibly for fear of nepotism and favoritism. What’s more, if a worker misplaces his/her affection, he/she could invite sexual harassment suit.
(Incidentally, I didn’t notice Americans’ attitude towards office romance when I worked in
Take, for example, Wal-Mart. The retail giant fired a marketing executive in 2006 because she received gifts from vendors, and because she had an affair with her subordinate. Wal-Mart even exports its policies to its subsidiaries in other countries. However, a German court struck down Wal-Mart’s ban on office romance, citing incompatibility with the country’s labor law.
But even in
- In 2001, 70% of employees thought that office romance was inappropriate. In 2005, only 60% of them thought so.
- In 2001, 37% of employees had experienced an office romance. In 2005, as much as 70% of the employees had such experience.
Mark Penn, the American polling analyst whom I had mentioned many times in my blog, explains:
"[Office romance] has to do with the rise of working singles. There are more of them than ever in the workforce (up 22 percent since 1995), and singles aged 25-34 are working more hours per week than they used to – up 8 percent since 1970. (So really, where else could they find romance?)"
It should be noted that there are different kinds of office romance. A superior/subordinate relationship may be viewed more negatively than one which involves peers.
So, is office romance okay? Is it ethical for companies to ban it? What say you?
Kiser, S. B., Coley, T., Ford, M., & Moore, E. (2006). Coffee, tea, or me? Romance and sexual harassment in the workplace. Southern Business Review, 31(2), 35-49.
Penn, M. (2007). Office romancers, Microtrends (pp. 11-15).