2013-06-23 at 4:42:13 am #2149The perils of office romancesnot dipping one's pen in the company ink
More Britons Than ever are spending most of their waking hours at the office. So it makes sense, then, that romances will flourish across desks and at the water cooler.
But while love may be a many splendoured thing, office romances can be fraught with peril – at least if the example of Sven-Goran Eriksson, Mark Palios and Faria Alam is anything to go by.
"They're a problem because if anything goes wrong in the relationship in the workplace, the whole office – especially if it's a small office – can be affected," Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at Lancaster University's management school, says.
After all, who's there to pick up the pieces when a once-torrid office romance suddenly goes bust? Colleagues can be left feeling awkward around the former couple, or forced to choose sides.
And even if the romance flourishes? Well, then it can have colleagues feeling jealous – and probably not in a boy-I-wish-that-was-me way.
If the relationship is between supervisor and subordinate, it can lead to the belief by others in the workplace that there may be preferential treatment – the so-called blue-eyed-boy(or, to be fair, girl) treatment.
When you leave work, you should leave work – the downside of the positive side is that there's pillow talk about work
Prof Cary Cooper
"Either way, it's not a good idea," Prof Cooper says. "I think in principle that people who are having a relationship shouldn't be working in the same department."
Thirty percent of British couples met at work, according to Human Resources magazine. It also reported that 62% of HR managers fretted over what office romances could do at their companies.
The main concern was the potentially negative effects office affairs would have on productivity. As a result, a third of UK companies were said by the magazine to be considering adding regulations about office flings to their employment contracts.
Some employers already have strict policies against flings in the workplace, but they tend to be North American firms, says Mike Emmott, an advisor on employee relations at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
"There's a difference between the US culture and UK culture on affairs now," he says. "I think in the States, or American employers in the UK, tend to take it more seriously. US employers are more aware of the risks, and more likely to have policies forbidding workplace affairs."
Be sensible, now
But while it's often constructive for companies to have clear policies on what constitutes good workplace behaviour – and to outline what's considered naughty in the office – they can also be too restrictive, says Mr Emmott.
A so-called "love contract" – where employees are required to reveal a romantic relationship to management – could drive away good people who would be put off by what they might feel are Draconian rules.
"Clearly, office romances can cause problems," says Mr Emmott, but "it's a fact of life, and it's not going to change".
"There isn't always a problem. Relationships come in many colours. Loads of people have relationships at work and they don't have any problems."
And Prof Cooper agrees, with the caveat that working with one's partner might not be the best thing for those who earn their livings in stressful environments.
"They're more understanding of the pressures and the stresses, and they can be mutually supportive," he says. "But there's a downside to the upside.
"When you leave work, you should leave work. The downside is that there's pillow talk about work."
* Post was edited: 2004-09-25 09:38:00