Pursue office romances with utmost caution

Generation Y Americans say they are open to the idea of an office romance because it means improved performance and increased morale.

A survey conducted in January by the employee support services company Workplace Options and Public Policy Polling found that 84 percent of employees aged 18 to 29 say they would date a co-worker.

Another 71 percent think that workplace romance is a positive thing that improves performance and morale.

Older generations, however, disagree — only 29 percent of those aged 46 to 65 say they would consider dating someone they worked with. 90 percent of that same age group say it could harm the workplace rather than help it.

Generational differences in opinion exist, but at the end of the day, workplace relationships blur the line between personal and professional lives — something that ultimately does more harm than good.

Jean Baur, career coach and author of Job Interview Answers that Work, said in a Fox News article that Gen Y members have a different perspective on workplace romance for a reason.  In the past, striking a romantic relationship with a co-worker was seen as too risky. People were afraid to lose their jobs.

Younger people aren’t quite as risk-averse. “Millennials are less committed to staying with a company because they are early in their career,” Baur said. “They think, ‘If something happens, oh well, I can find another job.’”

The ease and informality of social media that dominates our generation’s behavior also make it easier and seemingly more acceptable to get to know co-workers outside the office.

We should be careful. Many corporations have strict no-dating policies that make dating a co-worker a firing offense.

Even at companies where dating a colleague is considered acceptable, it can still mean big trouble in terms of lawsuits and settlements if a relationship doesn’t end well. And for relationships between an employee and his or her superior, a skewed power-equation could lead to allegations of favoritism by colleagues and could impact his or her credibility. Not to mention, there is always the awkwardness of having to deal with an ex on a regular basis if the relationship doesn’t work out.

Although problems relating to workplace relationships are not an everyday occurrence, they can happen and will often have a negative, rather than positive, impact. A professional working environment, efficient team working and employee performance are all at stake when our personal and professional lives merge.

With the overwhelming popularity and increasing use of social media in the last five years, certain communication barriers and previously rigid social divisions in the workplace have been turned on their head. Social media also makes it harder for management to regulate office relationships. This is the reality of the digital world that Gen Y lives and works in. Thus, we must remember to keep our personal, online lives from negatively impacting our academic and professional ones.


Emily Wang is a sophomore majoring in business administration. Her column “Business Matters” ran every other Tuesday.