Workplace romance can be a tricky topic.
[The Way We Work]
How do we manage the boundaries between our personal and professional lives?
How do we deal with gender imbalances and power dynamics in the workplace?
There’s a lot of gray areain workplace romance.
I’d like to take a few minutes and answer some
of your frequently asked questions.
So,question one:Should I date my coworker? Uh…
Do you want to date your coworker for a bit of fun?
Do you want to dateyour coworker to hook up?
Because then you’re reallybetter off on Tinder.
If you want to date your coworker because you really,
sincerely think you’re falling in love with them
or there’s a real potentialfor a long-term, committed relationship,
maybe you should date your coworker.
Studies show that your coworkersare generally positive about it
if they perceivethat you’re falling in love
and genuinely care about each other.
It’s when your coworkers sense that something else is in play —
that can be disruptive.
Question two: Should I date my boss?
In almost all cases, no,you should not date your boss,
because now, you’ve got a power dynamic.
When there’s a relationshipbetween a boss and a subordinate,
it generates a lot of negative feelings,
and the negative feelings tend to fall on the person
who’s lower on the totem pole.
People usually assumesome kind of favoritism,
some kind of inside knowledge,
and there can be resentmentstirred up by that.
There was a study published last year
that suggested dating a superior can even have a negative impact on your career.
The researchers askedthird-party evaluators online
to imagine that they worked at a law firm.
They asked them to make recommendations
on which employee should get picked
for a special training program and which should get promoted to partner.
They looked at credentialsfor imaginary employees,
and when it was statedthat an employee had been dating
or was in a relationship with a superior,
the evaluators were less likely to pick that person for the training program or the promotion,
even if they had the exactsame credentials
as someone who wasn’t dating their boss.
The evaluators were also quickto dismiss their accomplishments.
Question three: Can I date someone who reports to me?
Still a big no.
You may not feel likeyou’re really the boss, right?
But you are, and there’sa power dynamic there
that’s simply not there for other couples.
If you really believe there is a sincere,
honestly felt, personal connection
that would be lasting and meaningful,
one of you may need to move,
and it shouldn’t always be the person who’s lower in the company pecking order.
Question four: I’ve just started seeing a coworker.
How do we handle things?
I get this question a lot.
“Are they dating? Are they not dating?”
Don’t keep it a secret.
You don’t have to make a big deal of it,
but secrecy tends to be corrosive.
People tend to see workplace couples
as a coalition or a unit,
so try to make it clear to your coworkers
that you’re not the same person;
you love each other,but you are going to disagree.
Question five: Why are coworkersoften attracted to each other?
Well,the obvious answer is
people tend to be attracted to each other
the more time they spend together.
But there’s another ingredientthat has to be added:
attraction tends to happen when there’s work that demandsclose collaboration.
So imagine you have a big group project
with a tight deadline
and you’re working late nightsand brainstorming ideas.
You look up, and across the table,
one of your colleagues throws out a really great idea.
You may feel something,and that’s natural.
We call this task interdependence.
It’s a ripe ground for attraction.
The second reason why people
at work are attracted to each other
is they may often besimilar to each other.
There’s two old adages:
“Birds of a feather flock together.”And”Opposites attract.”
Well,the psychologicalresearch suggests…
birds of a feather flock together,
and we like people who are like us.
Question six: My coworkers are flirting.
I’m annoyed. What do I do?
Some researchers arguethat for people flirting at work,
flirting is good and it boosts creativity.
But my own research suggeststhings are different
for people who are watching or who are subjected to the flirting.
It can be awkward, right?
Witnessing flirtation in the workplace creates a sense of not knowing the rules,
not knowing what’s going on,
or maybe seeing something that you shouldn’t be seeing.
People who frequently witnessflirting at work —
they actually report feelingless satisfied in their jobs,
and they feel less valuedby their company.
They’re more likely to give a negative appraisal of the work environment,
and they may even consider leaving.
For women, this associationcan be even stronger.
This appears to be the case even when
people report not being bothered by the flirting.
It’s true even when they saythey enjoy it.
So,a flirtatious environmentreally could be toxic.
Question seven: Do I need a policyon workplace relationships?
You certainly need a policyon a sexual harassment,
and I think most HR departmentsrecognize that.
But for the kind of consensualbehavior we’ve been talking about,
it’s a little different.
As much as people
in HR would love to wave a magic wand
and say,”Thou shall notfall in love at work,”
it’s just not realistic.
Emotional connectionand sexuality is who we are.
I kind of want you to flip the script a little bit.
I encourage HRto really think more broadly
about their role in not necessarilystamping out office romance,
because I don’t think that’s realistic,
but how do I help create a workplace climate and culture
where people feel respectedfor their individual contributions,
not for their appearance or their gender,
or their personal relationships?
So the larger question is,
how do you make sure people are valued and respected?