Dating At Work — Cool or No?

Dating At Work — Cool or No? image DATE: June 29, 2021

When you put a group of people together in person, if they spend enough time with each other, eventually, somebody is likely going to have the “urge to merge.” Think about it…summer camp, school classrooms, the office, etc. A summer crush at band camp might have been cool, but is dating at work a whole different story? Here’s my take on it.

Understanding Differing Perspectives on Dating At Work

I am about to lay out my honest opinion on dating in the workplace, knowing full well that some will disagree with me. So, before I share my advice, you must know a few factors that play a part in shaping my perspective. If you’ve ever been in any of my leadership management training sessions, you understand the incredible value that comes from learning the stories about what has shaped the perspective of the people around you. When you understand people’s stories, you can better appreciate their stances. 

I am a millennial, female, and a mother. I’ve also been an employee and a manager. As a leadership development trainer and keynote speaker, I’ve worked with small, local organizations, as well as, international organizations with thousands of employees. I’m from a small town in the south and I still live there today. I met my husband in high school and now work with my in-laws. I’ve worked with married couples and I’ve managed married couples within the same organization.

There’s a lot to dig into there…so much that has shaped my current perspective on dating at work.

In order for you to understand my perspective, you need to know about me, understand the stories that shaped me. Even more important, in order to understand your employees, co-workers, or managers’ perspectives on dating in the workplace, you need to get to know them even better, too.

It is my hope that by sharing some of my background and factors that shape my perspective on dating at work, your eyes might be opened to different ways of doing things — or that you may take this as assurance that you’re on the right track. Either way, here we go.

My advice to an EMPLOYEE: I am an unabashed opponent of workplace romance inside someone else’s company — just don’t go there

My advice to MANAGEMENT on developing a workplace policy around dating at work:  it’s complicated — think it through.

Dating at Work — My Message to Employees

If your job is more important to you than finding love, don’t distract yourself at work — you risk losing what’s most important to you. 

On the other hand, if you’re more interested in love than work, go find another job so you can date that person you have your eye on at the office. 

Inter-office dating can make your entire life extremely complicated and stressful. Think about it…you’ll have to start:

  • managing your new relationship in adherence to company guidelines, 
  • desperately try to maintain trust and integrity with all other coworkers,
  • work to build a relationship with your new love interest that might work ten feet away from you but you’re not really allowed to act normal with for the 8+ hours of time you’re around each other every day…

Whew! That’s a lot to handle

If a person at work is important enough to you, make life easier for both of you by finding a job at another organization. Don’t ever give someone a reason to question your ethics and integrity.

Dating at Work — My Message to Managers

While I would 100% advise everyone not to date someone you work with, I don’t necessarily think managers should implement a no fraternization policy. 

Think about small town America for a moment. In my small town, we have one business that employs a large portion of our town’s workforce. Many of their employees have spouses that also work there. Imagine if that organization put a no fraternization policy in place. It’s reasonable that they might force their own hand to cut their own workforce by 25% and then struggle to meet performance and profitability standards going forward.

On the other hand, I’ve worked with organizations that have a very small workforce inside a very large community. You might be tempted to think that because they could more easily meet their workforce requirement,they should have a no fraternization policy. I don’t agree. Once you put an all or nothing policy in place, you risk losing some of your best performers — who potentially could work very well together within an organizational team. You also test the trust among those on your team. 

It’s a slippery issue. If you allow it, you can have issues. If you don’t allow it, you can have issues. What’s the answer?

There’s not a good, clear cut answer.

But what does seem to work for employers and employees, is having a constant conversation, including practical education, instruction, and application on what is and is not acceptable within an organization. Notice that I said conversation with employees…I did not say to email them the policy and expect them to get it. 

What Doesn’t Change At Work

Dating people at work becomes a problem when it hurts other people. Too often, dating someone at work causes favoritism, declining performance, harassment, trust issues, and more. While views on inter-office relationships may differ between generations, organizational size, and geography, what doesn’t change is this. Nobody likes: 

-leaders who show favoritism 

-employees, coworkers, or leaders who are bringing down team performance

-being harassed

-feeling like they can’t trust the people around them

If you want to position yourself for ultimate leadership success, don’t ever give anyone a reason to doubt you — not when you can help it. Instead, give people a reason to count on you to be honest and full of integrity every time, all the time.

The latest research shows a declining number of people who date people they work with. There are many factors that are causing the decline — among them, generational differences, #MeToo movement, online dating, and remote work. But I’m curious, what do you think about workplace romance — is it appropriate or not? Let me know in the comments below!

Professionalism standards are changing. Want to create a cohesive standard among your team? I can help! Let’s talk!

van hooser leadership development

About The Author:

Alyson Van Hooser, Leadership Keynote Speaker, Trainer on Millennials, Gen Z & Women in Business With the grit that only comes from tough experiences, Alyson has learned a thing or two about personal and professional success. From her management experience with Walmart, as an elected city council member, bank manager — all before the age of 30 — Alyson has wisdom well beyond her years! Her podcast, Stake: The Leadership Podcast, offers a fresh perspective on leadership and helps multiple generations successfully work together! Connect with Alyson on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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