Given the amount of time employees spend at their offices, it shouldn't surprise us when two people connect with one other beyond workplace small talk. Any work environment presents the opportunity for individuals with similar interests to develop a relationship that is more than friendly. According to a 2009 survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com, 40% of respondents indicated that they have dated coworkers; 18% said they had been involved in two or more workplace romances. Any relationship comes with risk, so it's especially important to handle those relationships within the workplace with extreme caution. 

No longer a secret: Tools to cope with workplace romances

Given the amount of time employees spend at their offices, it shouldn't surprise us when two people connect with one other beyond workplace small talk. Any work environment presents the opportunity for individuals with similar interests to develop a relationship that is more than friendly. According to a 2009 survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com, 40% of respondents indicated that they have dated coworkers; 18% said they had been involved in two or more workplace romances. Any relationship comes with risk, so it's especially important to handle those relationships within the workplace with extreme caution.

Romantic relationships do have the potential to negatively impact the dynamic of any workplace. Not only can these relationships present legal challenges such as allegations of sexual harassment and hostile work environments, but they can also jeopardize the couple's job security and advancement. Both the employer and employees involved must be prepared to deal with these challenges. A smart first step for employers is to clearly communicate organizational policies and provide appropriate training on harassment and discrimination. By doing that, there will be no ambiguity surrounding the topic and employees will better understand what is expected of them.

Five tips if you choose to date a coworker 
Dating someone from your workplace is fraught with possible complications. If you are tempted to become romantically involved with someone from the office, think about whether it is worth your livelihood. If you do choose to date a coworker, the following tips may help you avoid problems that could arise along the way.
  • Understand your company's explicit and implicit policies on romantic relationships within the workplace. Be aware that many organizations prohibit reporting relationships (superior/employee) because it presents a conflict of interest.
  • Always behave discreetly in the workplace. There should never be any public displays of affection. If your position and responsibilities require you and your romantic interest to work together, maintain professionalism at all times.
  • If your relationship becomes serious, be honest and open with your coworkers. Trying to hide a romantic office relationship can damage the trust of your coworkers when the truth comes out.
  • Because many romantic relationships don't last forever, it's important to talk about how you'll handle working together or moving on professionally if this relationship ends.
  • Although you are dating someone at work, you are still working with many more! Don't lose sight of what matters most at work -- doing your job and developing professionally.
Top four issues with workplace romance 
  1. Possibility of sexual harassment claims
  2. Disharmony caused by relationships that go sour
  3. Possibility of low morale among other staff members that are exposed and/or disapprove of the relationship
  4. Risks associated with the loss of productivity by dating coworkers and other staff members
(Source: SHRM's Workplace Romance Survey)

Office romance by the numbers 
A 2010 survey of U.S. workers reported: 
  • 73% agreed that openly dating a coworker could jeopardize job security or advancement.
  • 75% agreed that workplace relationships can lead to conflict at work.
  • 48% would consider dating a coworker in another department, while only 21% would consider dating a coworker in their department.
  • 25% would consider dating a supervisor from another department, compared to only 9% percent who would consider dating their own supervisor.
  • 42% responded that an open office romance is worth the risk compared with 35% who preferred to keep an office romance private.
(Source: 2010 Office Romance Survey conducted by Monster.com and Spherion Corporation)