Office Romances Should Be Encouraged

Office Romances Should Be Encouraged

Lifestyle | Posted by - November 22, 2013 at 12:00 am

Conventional wisdom rarely leads to innovation. Jesse Brown tries disruptive concepts on for size, because they just might work. 

Want some obvious and predictable career advice? Avoid workplace romance. It’s the one thing every HR guru and career coach seems to agree on: relationships with your colleagues are poison. They generate an atmosphere of gossip and rumour, they create messy power issues and conflicts of interest, they reduce workplace productivity, they can result in sexual harassment claims or even lawsuits. While offices can’t legally forbid inter-office dating, many discourage it and most require some kind of formal disclosure, which is pretty unsexy. We’ve all gotten this memo, we all know the dangers, and then half of us go ahead and date our colleagues anyhow. It’s time to stop sneaking around and feeling guilty.

The fact is, office romance is a good idea.

Advice givers are so focused on the negatives, they don’t take a second to consider the positives. How many relationships fail because one partner can’t understand or appreciate the other’s career?  It’s hard for an outsider to understand how a coder can lose track of eight hours time while hacking away, or why a founder of a startup would rather spend a Saturday night poring over usage analytics than snuggling up on the sofa.  Usually, the only people who “get it” are your own colleagues.

From management’s point of view, what’s there to be afraid of? Progressive offices go out of their way to make employees as comfortable and engaged as possible. They provide healthy food and snacks, free transportation, nap rooms, video games and massages. The idea is to make the office the happiest place in every worker’s life. Managers encourage team-building, social outings, and workplace friendships because they want contented and inspired teams who love each other’s company, who can’t wait to get to work and who want nothing more than to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Great atmospheres like this will inevitably lead to hook-ups. Is it such a stretch to imagine a workplace that doesn’t simply tolerate the happiness this generates, but actually celebrates it? Intense and informal workplaces like restaurant kitchens have always welcomed a bit of action within the ranks. It’s great for those involved and makes for good entertainment for everyone else. But if things get sloppy - if a couple disappear into the pantry and leave colleagues hanging at service time, or if a nasty breakup leads to a communication breakdown on the line, it usually doesn’t take a manager to set things straight. The offending parties will get chewed out by their own peers, who will demand that they act professionally or leave. It’s incredible how workers will self-regulate when management stops babysitting them.

Yes, things could get messy and probably will.  But that’s not a problem with office relationships, it’s a problem with relationships, period. If you want to avoid entanglements, obligations, power-struggles and hurt feelings, it’s easy: don’t date. 


Tags: colleagues, gossip, Human Resources, management, office romance, productivity, relationships

Jesse Brown
Jesse Brown is a journalist and broadcaster who has hosted programs for the CBC and TVO and has written for Maclean's, Toronto Life, and VICE Magazine. He hosts the CANADALAND podcast at and is on Twitter @JesseBrown
Graham Roumieu
Graham Roumieu is the creator of a series of published faux autobiographies of Bigfoot, and some other non Bigfoot related books. His illustrations have appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Esquire, Conde Nast Traveller, and many other places.
Mark Burdon
November 25, 2013 at 7:05 pm
This is satire right? Office romances getting messy and unwanted advances can lead to big legal issues. I am a fan of This is That and The Onion so maybe this article was posted on YouInc to see if anyone is paying attention. I can't believe anyone associated with CBC and TVO would write this stuff seriously let alone the New York Times. If two adults want to get together that's fine if it works but to encourage it and celebrate it definitely could definitely lead to law suits and a very uncomfortable environment when things go off the rails.

Yeah this is definitely troll fodder for sure. I took the bait and got hooked but somebody had to say something.
Christian Walker
November 26, 2013 at 2:18 pm
My only experience was overwhelmingly negative. A married female reported to me. She was involved in an extra-marital affair with my manager. Performance reviews and work assignments were an absolute nightmare. In the end, I asked to be moved out of my role or I would quit. Without sounding too arrogant, I was an important asset to my employer, so they moved me into a new role.
Brenda Labelle
February 22, 2014 at 7:39 pm
There are lots of married couples at my workplace; it's inevitable -- these are the people we interact with every day. I will say that I've seen one workplace romance get awkward, but every one else got MARRIED. As long as everyone stays respectful and professional, there should be no issues.
This gave me pause though: "They provide healthy food and snacks, free transportation, nap rooms, video games and massages." Um, where's that? I want to go there.
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