February 17, 2012 - Anonymous

Almost half of employees have dated a colleague, finds poll

Office romance might be a headache for business owners, but almost half of employees have dated a colleague, research by CareerBuilder has highlighted.

According to the CareerBuilder poll of 100 adults, 46 per cent admitted that they had dated a co-worker at least once in their career, while nearly a fifth owned up to having had more than one workplace affair. In addition, 48 per cent reported that they had kept their romance a secret.

Despite the stereotype of the fleeting office fling, not all workplace relationships were doomed to failure – the results also suggested that it was possible to find long-term love at work, with nearly a third saying that an office tryst had led to marriage.

But HR expert Hilary Jeanes, managing director of Purple Line Consulting, said that romances at work could be a minefield and warned small-business owners of the risks involved should colleagues start dating.

“It can throw up all sorts of issues, especially in cases where somebody is dating the boss or somebody senior to them,” she said. “Colleagues can perceive that that person is being treated favourably, or worry that they can’t talk openly about problems in case it gets back to the wrong person. It can put real strain on teams, particularly in small firms where everybody knows each other, and if things go sour, morale could be affected.”

Spending long hours at work with colleagues made it “unsurprising” that workplace affairs sprung up, Jeanes said, but small-business owners required to manage staff who were in a relationship had to act “fairly and reasonably”. “You mustn’t let your own personal judgement cloud how you manage somebody, even if you disagree with what they are doing,” she said.

“Make sure that behaviour between colleagues is appropriate – no public displays of affection in the office, for instance – and keep lines of communication open to ensure that the situation is not making co-workers feel uncomfortable,” added Jeanes.