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Is an Office Romance OK?

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About to take an office romance to a very personal level? At least 40% of workers admit they’ve engaged in an interoffice romance, so you’re not alone.

But what’s the risk to your job?

First, crack open your employee handbook and find out if your employer has a written office relationship policy (aka a “love contract”) in place. More than 60% of employers don’t but, for those that do, you may at least be required to disclose the relationship to HR.

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) states that while an employer should not necessarily try to limit any contact or relationships between employees, “it may certainly impose reasonable limits on any such relationships or conduct when the conduct threatens work relationships, jeopardizes workflow, or harms the employer’s reputation among its customers or in the community at large.”

That seems reasonable, right?

Almost all employers with or without romance policies agree: Love matches between supervisors and staff members should never be allowed because they are almost certain to cause problems. Some employers go so far as to forbid romance between employees and clients or customers and even 11% forbid romances between their employees and employees who work for their competitors.

If your employer doesn’t have a written policy in place, it’ll be up to you to make the judgment call. Before you do, consider these facts:

  • One in 10 people who engage in an office relationship end up leaving their job as a result.
  • That number jumps to more than 1 in 8 if you’re dating a higher-level employee.
  • Nearly half of those who have an office relationship with a higher-level employer regret it (while about 1/3 of all others regret it).

Regrets can take several forms when it comes to office dating: From erroneously assuming the relationship will remain secret (it likely won’t, thanks to office gossip) to claims of harassment or retaliation if things don’t end well. The stakes could be impressively high.

To help you decide whether a romance at work is worth it—and your employer doesn’t have a policy in place to help—take a look at TWC’s sample policy. If the relationship violates any of the areas listed, consider the relationship a risk to your job (which is certainly the case if one of you manages or supervises the other). Ideally, for other situations that aren’t as definitive, you have a great HR team willing to answer your questions discretely and confidentially.