At Work, HR Among Cupid’s Targets

By SHRM Online staff Feb 13, 2015

Valentine’s Day is approaching, but romance is not limited to one day, and human resource professionals are seemingly among Cupid’s most likely targets in the workplace, according to Vault’s 2015 Office Romance Survey.

They’re not alone.

Slightly more than half of 2,274 U.S. workers—55 percent were men and 45 were percent women— surveyed have gotten close and personal with a colleague, according to the findings released Feb. 12, 2015. While 57 percent of HR professionals said that they have been romantically involved at work at some during their career—the same percentage as employees in manufacturing—they’re not at the top of the list. Those would be workers in retail (62 percent) and technology (60 percent).

Marketing professionals (43 percent) were least likely to mix love and work.

Among the 51 percent of all respondents who admitted they have gotten involved with someone in the office, the nature of the relationship has run the gamut—from an ongoing, casual relationship (21 percent) to a random office hookup (18 percent) to a long-term, serious romance (16 percent). While only 10 percent reportedly met their spouse or partner at work, nearly two-thirds of all those who had experienced an office relationship said they would do it again, regardless of whether the relationship had failed or not.

It’s not surprising people are making romantic connections in the workplace, according to Tara McCaffrey, vice president of marketing at Vault.com.

“Co-workers are spending more time together than ever before, so it comes as no surprise to anyone that there might be a love connection made in the office—or even a one-night fling. It’s human nature and the survey results support this concept,” she said in a news release.

For one thing, a romantic workplace relationship is no longer taboo—only 5 percent of respondents said office romances are never appropriate, down from 11 percent in 2011. Close to one-third (29 percent) said all such liaisons—even those between managers and direct reports—are appropriate. Slightly more women than men indicated they were more likely to date a supervisor (22 percent and 15 percent, respectively).

“The more interesting data,” McCaffrey added, “comes as you dig deeper into the survey,” which looked at the roles gender, age and industry type play in workplace dalliances and examined the impact romantic workplace relationships have had on employees’ careers.

Three-fourths of respondents didn’t think their office romance affected their personal or professional relationships with others, and they were right—only one-fourth of those surveyed reported feeling uncomfortable because of a co-workers’ intra-office romantic relationship. Close to one-third thought those involved in a romantic relationship with a co-worker or supervisor gained a professional advantage.

Other findings:

Company policy: 43 percent of all respondents were unsure if their company had a policy on office dating; among those who were aware of such a policy, 25 percent said it was discouraged and 35 percent said their employer was indifferent.

Gender: More men than women have had an office relationship (55 percent and 45 percent, respectively).

How recently was this office twosome?: 20 percent said they were in such a relationship at the time the survey was conducted in January 2015, and 23 percent said it happened about a year ago. The highest percentage—29 percent—said the relationship occurred within the last decade.

Meeting spouses/partners: More women than men reported meeting their spouse or partner at work (11 percent and 9 percent, respectively).

Who’s counting?: Only 2 percent said they had more office relationships than they could count, versus the 45 percent who had engaged in one such relationship and 41 percent who had two to three such dalliances.

Location, location, location: 29 percent divulged they had engaged in a tryst in the workplace and 4 percent said they were caught in the act.

Goodbye: Only 5 percent said their office romance caused the other person to leave the company and 6 percent said they left the company because of their romance. Twenty-one percent said their relationship “flourished” when one or both partners left the company.

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