Is Your Valentine a Co-Worker?

According to a survey by in 2014 (,  more than 50% of those surveyed had had an office relationship.  The research showed that while the incidence of office relationships was evenly split, men were more likely to have a ‘random hook up’ than women.  Whatever that means!

Interestingly, both 8% of women and 8% of men met their long term partners at work. Valentines

The statistics are hardly surprising – people who work in an office spend most of their waking time with people at work and meet people with common interests and socialise with them as well.  When working closely together, it is not surprising that friendship and alliances turn to either romance or a sexual relationship – and the two are not mutually exclusive!

So what are the do’s and don’ts of office hook ups and romance?

Generally speaking, unless there is a policy forbidding office relationships they are not illegal or noteworthy when the people involved are two consenting adults.  Difficulties arise of course when one or both of the people involved is married or in a permanent relationship with someone else, and while some would say it is no one’s business, it is difficult to keep this sort of relationship a secret. Like it or not, people will pass judgement on those who are perceived to be committing adultery – projecting perhaps their own fears and insecurities, or projecting their own set of values onto others, judging the parties to be generally untrustworthy.

Emotional infidelity – where you spend time together, telling each other your problems, talking all the time, but without a sexual relationship – will have the same result as actual infidelity as the people with whom you work will assume you are sleeping together.

However, having sex in the office, while thrilling (so I am told) is fraught with danger.  You could end up on news websites, and Facebook, while your spouse, who finds out about your office romance and sexual encounters courtesy of said news websites and Facebook, heads to a divorce lawyer.

There are so many things wrong with the scenario of the article above – both parties are/were in relationships at the time, the tinted windows they thought protected them, in fact did not, and no one knows how many people now have video of their interlude on their phones.  However from an employment perspective, depending on the terms of their employment, it could end their careers at this office – by conduct which could be alleged to have brought the company into disrepute, for example.

A relationship with someone in a supervisory role, or with decision-making authority in relation to salary or promotion is unwise at best and just plain stupid at worst.  If the relationship goes well, the perception of the person more junior in the relationship will forever be tainted with the whiff of favouritism.  You may as well leave now!

If it goes badly, the person in the more senior position can face sexual harassment or bullying claims by a jilted lover.  Even if that is the extreme case, coming to work every Monday morning, (in fact every morning) and seeing the person with whom you used to be in a relationship, is just not going to be enjoyable, for either person, but especially the person who did not want it to end.

So…given that 8% of people meet their permanent partners at work, what are some of the unwritten rules?  Essentially there are none so we offer up these tips based on research, not personal experience:

  • if you are both consenting adults and not in other relationships you should be free to explore the possibilities
  • You should however meet with your supervisors (assuming one of the parties is not your supervisor) and advise them of the relationship
  • Keeping it a secret does no one any good as believe it or not, you are not very good at keeping secrets
  • Do try not to get involved with someone who is married or in a long term relationship.  It rarely ends well, particularly if children are involved.  Remember the scene from “When Harry met Sally”, and Sally’s friend Marie is talking about her lover buying his wife lingerie and a new dining room table.  She laments ‘I just don’t think he is ever going to leave her’ to which Sally replies ‘Marie, no one thinks he is ever going to leave her’.
  • Don’t, just don’t have sex in the office.  There are security cameras everywhere.  People may walk in on you.  It’s just not that attractive to other people!
  • Relationships with those in a supervisory role should be avoided at all costs unless one of you is prepared to leave the organisation. Again be honest – if either of you wants to be taken seriously, you should avoid scandal and conduct your relationship free of the constraints of gossip and innuendo.
  • Do not spend all your time ‘popping in’ to each others’ offices – keep work for work, and your relationship out of work time
  • Discretion is the better part of valour
  • Never, I repeat never, send steamy emails to each other at work.  Imagine the horror of hitting ‘reply all’ by mistake with a suggestive email.

Office romance can be thrilling and also fraught with danger (which of course makes it thrilling).  But it can be very damaging to your career and other relationships.  Let your head rule your heart more than the other way around and wisdom will prevail to protect you making a terrible mistake.