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Answer: Regardless of what guidelines HR may have in place, workplace romances happen. According to a survey conducted by Vault.com, more than half of American professionals say they have participated in an office romance. Of those, 29% had been in a serious, long-term relationship, and 16% met their spouse or partner at work.
Some companies, like Southwest Airlines and Hersheys embrace coworker attraction as a fact of life. Although supervisors cannot date their employees and spouses cannot supervise one another, about 1,500 married couples work at Southwest Airlines alone. Other companies ask coworkers to fill out a Consensual Romance in the Workplace Agreement – aka love contract – while still other companies have strict policies on the subject.
Here are some do’s and don’ts to tell you’re, uh, friend to keep in mind:
- Make sure that the feelings are voluntary and consensual.
- No matter how much discretion is exercised, assume that coworkers will learn about the relationship.
- No matter how happy coworkers may be about the relationship, avoid public displays of affection in the office.
- If the relationship ends, the office environment can get tense, leaving coworkers feeling forced to take sides.
- If the relationship ends, one person may feel the need to transfer to another department.
Office relationships invite drama. But banning them outright is unrealistic. Weighing the pros and cons and knowing what policies are in place about workplace romance will help navigate this tricky issue.