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Office romance more common than you think

Susan Ricker | February 13, 2014

office romance

CareerBuilder’s annual survey on office romance asked full-time workers across industries and company sizes about dating at the office and other details that would make the human resources department cringe.

Be honest: Have you ever been overly charming at a business lunch? Had a moment at the copier? Sent a salacious email? If that’s the boldest you’ve been at the office, then you’re not one of the 38 percent of U.S. workers who have dated someone who worked for the same company — or the 16 percent who have done so more than once.

CareerBuilder’s annual survey on office romance asked more than 3,000 full-time workers across industries and company sizes about dating at the office and other details that would make the human resources department cringe. So obviously we shared them with you. Happy Valentine’s Day!

You’ve got mail
Some workplaces are more prone to romantics than others, and we can’t say we’re surprised at the number one industry for office romances. Leisure and hospitality tops the list (57 percent), followed by utilities (51 percent), information technology (46 percent) and transportation (42 percent) — all of which outpace the national average.

Other industries where Cupid’s arrow may strike include financial services (38 percent), retail (35 percent), manufacturing (35 percent), health care (32 percent) and business services (26 percent).

How I met your mother
Most office romances don’t take eight seasons before they get their start. In fact, regular parts of your life may be enough to get things going with a co-worker. According to the survey, office romances most often begin with co-workers running into each other outside of work (12 percent) or at a happy hour (11 percent).

Some other situations that led to romance include late nights at work (10 percent), having lunch together (10 percent) and love at first sight (9 percent).

Love actually
Most often, office romances are considered taboo because of a likely unequal power dynamic and the risk of it negatively affecting your career. And depending on what role you have at work, an office romance could look like a strategic career move. Nonetheless, that’s not enough to stop some people from pursuing romance at work.

When it comes to eligible partners, one quarter (24 percent) of workers who have dated a co-worker said their office sweetheart was higher up in the organization, including the boss.

However, only 3 percent of workers who have had an office relationship said the relationship helped them progress in their career.

No strings attached
A work relationship will affect more than your personal life. It can also tangle your other interactions at work and cause enough confusion to make you feel like the star in a romantic comedy. Most workers surveyed were open about their dating situation, but nearly 2 in 5 (39 percent) said they had to keep their relationship with a co-worker a secret.

It turns out that keeping that secret may not be too easy, though. Twenty-six percent of respondents who have dated someone at work said they accidentally ran into co-workers while out socially with their office sweetheart. Of these workers, 43 percent pretended that they weren’t dating their co-worker.

It’s complicated
When all is said and done, is an office romance really worth it? That depends. Of those who dated someone from the office, nearly one third (31 percent) ended up marrying their office sweetheart.

But that sweet outcome isn’t guaranteed for everybody. Twenty percent of workers who dated someone at the office admitted that at least one person in the relationship was married at the time. That’s an issue that probably can’t be solved through email.

Two weeks’ notice
If you’re going to pursue a relationship with someone at work that’s not strictly professional, there are some tips to keep in mind before you find yourself giving two weeks’ notice:

  • Check the company handbook – Some companies have strict policies around office romances. Acquaint yourself with the rules before turning a professional relationship into a personal one.
  • Proceed with caution – Some romances lead into marriage, but others can lead into disaster. Seven percent of workers who have dated a co-worker reported having to leave their jobs because their office romance soured. Take the time to get to know someone first and carefully weigh risks and benefits.
  • Compartmentalize – Keep your work life separate from your home life. Avoid showing PDA in the office and don’t involve co-workers in personal disagreements.
  • Think before you post – Be careful what you post on social media. You can end up outing your relationship before you’re ready to discuss it.

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