It doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting work or approaching retirement, falling head over heels for someone in the office can be fraught with problems. Not only is your heart on the line, financial stability could be at risk should you lose your job.
If a relationship involves two different levels in the company hierarchy, the stakes are even higher.
It’s easy to understand why workplace relationships start, though. Working closely with like-minded people, stressing about the same things and understanding the pressure people are under, means that close friendships are easily formed.
But with the stakes so high, does this mean that office relationships are a definite non-starter?
Surveys suggest not – it’s been revealed that 56% of professional business people have had a workplace relationship, with 70% of men and 62% of women saying that they would do it again.
One of the main issues concerning an office romance is whether the working relationship is equal. If one person is a manager and the other a team member, for example, and the relationship fails, it can result in a hostile environment with serious ramifications including sexual harassment accusations and low morale.
Some companies develop verbal or written ‘office relationship’ policies, the aim being to protect the company’s reputation and avert disaster in the form of compromised profit levels.
So, here are some of the consequences, good and bad, if you’ve currently got your eye on someone special in the office:
- If the relationship goes well, your employer will benefit from happy, productive employees.
- An office romance allows you to see the ‘real’ person first, how they deal with the pressures of everyday working life, and the way they relate to other people.
- They say that the best relationships are the ones that begin as friendships.
- Your co-workers may feel threatened by the relationship, especially if it involves someone higher up the chain of command. You could be ostracised by people you thought were friends, and have to deal with hostility on a daily basis.
- If the relationship doesn’t work out, there’s a danger of increased absenteeism and lower productivity should you be adversely affected by the break-up.
- The office gossip machine will go into overdrive. You’ll find yourself the subject of endless conversations that quickly stop when you or your partner enter the room. This added pressure makes it difficult to have a relaxed relationship with others around you, can divide an office and cause people to take sides.
- The legal consequences when a workplace relationship ends can include claims of sexual harassment and data confidentiality issues. Should you work for a bank or other financial institution they may take a dim view of your relationship, mainly due to a perceived increase in their exposure to risk of theft.
- Customers or clients may sense an atmosphere of hostility or negativity.
Whilst not wishing to deflect Cupid’s arrow this Valentine’s Day, it’s well worth taking a step back and thinking carefully about the consequences of embarking on a romantic relationship at work.
Office romances have the capacity to get you fired from your dream job, or help you find the love of your life. Each of these extremes represents a life event, so don’t let your heart rule in isolation – let your head have some say in the matter too.
Author: John Baird is a personal finance and insolvency expert from www.scotlanddebt.co.uk. He specialises in advising businesses and individuals on how to manage their money and deal with their personal debt problems.