Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Office Romance

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 California.)

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 America, office romance is on the rise, and is gaining acceptance. A survey by the Society of Human Resource Management yielded the following findings:

  • 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). London, UK: Penguin Books Ltd.


  1. if me i wont do that...very guai guai de..

  2. christine,
    When you are stuck by love, you can't think logically. At that time you won't think it is 'guai guai de'.

    Furthermore, you will have an answer to your relatives who ask, "Have you got a boyfriend?" :P

  3. I dont do office romance... if avoidable... last night an ex colleague wanna after me, I dun like him, you know how hard it is to work with a person like that???

  4. haha...i oso not realize tim..no ned me too 'fan' to think bout that ques ord..^-^

  5. princess:
    I guess there must be lots of guys, and gals, who want to become 驸马爷 :P
    Get used to it la...

    Maybe you can get someone to share your 'fan no'...

    Of course, that is provided that you can get one...

  6. Eh, are trying to say that maybe you got a crush for a girl last time you work? or now when you study?

  7. kai,
    I am studying MBA, so I look at this issue from management point of view. In fact, the Wal-Mart controversy is part of my assignment.

  8. Oh, just simple as that...

  9. Many corporations are operating like what Wal-Mart does - every subsidiary is expected to follow the work ethics set up from their home office, which I believe is a good practice. This ensures uniformity across the board and no double-standards.

    In many companies, romance in the office is allowed but they are normally not allowed to work in the same department - one has to be transferred out. This is to prevent conflict of interest and unfairness. What is not tolerated is extra-marital affairs. People have been terminated.

  10. happy,
    Yes, transfer one of the parties in office romance is an option. But termination for extra-marital affair is kinda privacy intrusion...