Cubicle Reality Check: Office Romance Myths Debunked

09/12/2016 04:03 pm ET Updated Sep 12, 2016
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Workplace affections are nearly universally discouraged by company policy. Yet, they happen. A lot. Vault.com’s 2016 Office Romance Survey revealed fully half of surveyed businesspeople have engaged in some type of office romance. The dynamics of these relationships are also interesting, revealing women generally date a supervisor and men, their subordinates.

Whether it’s with a superior, a peer, someone from a different department or even a different location, workplace love is an especially sticky situation for women to navigate.

So what are the myths?

Myth #1: your relationship is confidential.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. The romance is obvious and your colleagues are keen observers. Be aware of how your actions not only affect you and your partner, but also your work community and environment.

Myth #2: there is not a power dynamic.

There will always be a power dynamic involved, it comes with the territory. Whether the two potential lovers are peers at the time or not, someone is higher in the hierarchy. This adds politics, drama, and possibly harassment to the equation.

Myth #3: no one else is involved.

Not the case my friend, not the case. Your colleagues are dramatically impacted by favoritism and a new angle on office politics. If even the slightest appearance of impropriety or preferential treatment seems to be occurring, the employer may be liable for a hostile work environment. The potential consequences of your working tryst are harsh.

Myth #4: it’s personal, not business.

No, it’s not personal. This is a very slippery slope in office relationship dynamics. Generally follow the rule that if it happens in the workplace or is connected to a business relationship, it’s business. This helps to eliminate favoritism and also keeps your professional and personal lives separate.

Myth #5: there’s no reporting necessary.

In most cases, this is wrong. Office relationships usually violate a company’s sexual harassment prevention policy. You may be required to report that you are dating or romantically involved. Knowing where you stand with your organization can help you make decisions.

Myth #6: all’s well that ends well.

These relationships can end in a myriad of ways. From successful marriages to widespread catastrophe, office relationships are a dangerous cocktail for thirsty professionals.

Myth #7 Gender doesn’t matter.

The United States ranks 28th out of 145 countries in the 2015 Global Gender Gap Index. In terms of wage equality, the United States is ranked 74th. Knowing that gender does matter, and that as a female engaged in a workplace affair, you have more to lose. Women may have another hurdle to leap, jeopardized job stability, and an altered career ladder.

Curious to know how to consider the consequences of a potential workplace tryst? Check out tomorrow’s blog to learn how to analyze the dangers of a potential office romance.

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is the resident etiquette expert for CBS Austin’s We Are Austin, regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, The New York Times, and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2015 and recipient of the British Airways International Trade, Investment & Expansion Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

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