Work

One in three Americans has dated a co-worker, but office romances may be on the decline

John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer play Jim Halpert and Pam Halpert in the TV show The Office. Their characters are well-known for being coworkers whose crushes turn into marriage.
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John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer play Jim Halpert and Pam Halpert in the TV show The Office. Their characters are well-known for being coworkers whose crushes turn into marriage.

A third of Americans have found love across the open floor plan or in the cubicle next door — but workplace romances seem to be losing their luster.

While one in three workers say they've been in such a relationship before, only 2 percent admit to currently being involved with a coworker, according to new poll conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). A similar poll from CareerBuilder last year found that office romances are at a 10-year low, with 36 percent of workers reporting that they've dated a colleague, compared to 41 percent in 2017.

That might come down to a growing awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace and concerns about being perceived as such an aggressor, the CareerBuilder poll suggested last year. Almost a fifth of the people SHRM surveyed who had never been in a workplace romance chose to abstain because they were worried about the potential for claims of sexual harassment.

The other reasons 68 percent of people gave for why they've remained completely platonic with coworkers ranged from a lack of interest (56 percent), finding them unprofessional (33 percent), concerns about employer reactions (25 percent) and fears of being gossiped about (22 percent.)

Worries about how an employer or other coworkers will take your good news and how it will impact your role are likely behind why 28 percent of people never disclose the romance. But only 11 percent of workers report any blowback from their company for such behavior, and the most frequently reported consequences were a transfer to another department and counseling, according to SHRM.

Dating someone at the same level as you or who is in an entirely separate division of the company are probably safer routes to go down, if you want work to be supportive. CareerBuilder says you should avoid dating two kinds of workers: those you report to, and those that report to you.

A 2013 study from SHRM found that among businesses with workplace romance policies, 99 percent prohibited relationships between a supervisor and direct report and 45 percent did not permit employees of significant rank difference to date.

And yet, CareerBuilder found 22 percent of people have dated their boss and 30 percent have dated someone at a higher lever within the organization than they were.

While men and women are about equally likely to date coworkers, men were more likely to have multiple relationships stem from work interactions. Women were more likely to date up the corporate ladder, according to CareerBuilder.

Of course, not all relationships led to happily ever after. While a third of office romances led to marriage, almost a quarter are affairs between at least one wedded coworker, according to CareerBuilder, and 6 percent end on such a sour note that one half of the former couple leaves their job.

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