Workplace romance has always happened, but can you still find love at the office in the wake the #MeToo scandals and revelations?
Following the numerous high-profile scandals, people are much more sensitive to issues of sexual harassment and misconduct now. And this is a good thing. No one should ever feel pressured to endure uncomfortable physical contact or displays of affection or have their career impacted by rejecting unwanted advances.
But what about innocent flirting or mutual attraction?
A recent survey HR outsourcing firm G&A partners found that more than half, 51 per cent, of professionals have engaged in a workplace romance at some point over their careers. Ten per cent of participants said that they actually met their spouse at work.
This makes sense. Work is where we spend most of our time. It’s where you meet people, and naturally some of them are going to form an attraction.
Of course, five per cent of participants said that they had been in a workplace romance that had ended badly. One quarter of professionals (25 per cent) say they have had a relationship with someone in a higher position at their company.
And these are the risky ones: relationships that end badly and those with a power imbalance. And it’s the latter in particular that companies are trying to regulate against. So, if you’re been exchanging glances with the hottie from accounting or the hunky sales rep, here are some things to consider before making a move this Valentine’s Day.
Get the facts. Find out if your company has a policy on workplace relationships. To ensure that a relationship is consensual and not at all coerced, some companies may require employees to disclose a workplace romance and even sign a consensual relationship agreement.
Of particular concern for HR professionals are relationships between managers and subordinates. Staff who are dating should not take part in making any decisions that can impact their partner’s salary, working conditions, or terms of employment.
Companies may prohibit employees from dating coworkers who are in the same department. They may reserve the right to transfer or terminate one of the employees to avoid any potential allegations of conflict of interest or favoritism that arise because of the relationship.
Most people seem to agree that this is a fair compromise. Cosmopolitan Magazine (don’t judge me) asked over 800 women how they felt about workplace dating. Eighty-four per cent said they would date someone at their company as long as they were not on the same team.
40 per cent said that they have hooked up with a coworker post #MeToo, and 62 per cent said that flirting with coworkers is fine.
So, before you take casual flirting to the next level, keep in mind that you and your love interest may have to sign a love contract with HR, one of you may have to change departments – or jobs altogether.
The #MeToo movement has put a great deal of pressure on employers to make sure they’re providing a safe work environment where all employees are comfortable and free from all forms of harassment.
You can only ask once
Also, even if there are no policies about workplace relationships at your company, the unwritten rule is that you only have one shot at it. If you are interested in a coworker and you want to ask them out – you can express your interest or propose a date one time. If they reciprocate, then proceed with caution. If they are not interested, don’t proceed at all.
Repeated overtures can easily cross the line into harassment.
G&A Partners: 5 things employers MUST know about office romance
Cosmopolitan: Are Coworkers Still Hooking Up With Each Other, Post-#MeToo