Dating and the office

We spoke with HR experts about how to best approach the issue of dating in the workplace.There are a lot of risks involved with in-office relationships regarding the image and morale of your company.After firing CEO Dov Charney last month, American Apparel decided to update its company code of ethics with stricter guidelines regarding interoffice relationships.According to the new policy, “No management-level employee may make sexual advances, welcome or unwelcome, toward any subordinate.”Considering Charney’s time with the company was riddled with allegations of sexual harassment, it’s no surprise that the company wants to take a more conservative approach to fraternization.Despite all the cautionary tales regarding the dangers of office romance, countless employees wind up in relationships with co-workers every year.And as you might expect when two people try to maintain both a business and emotional relationship – while spending virtually every waking hour together keeping the whole thing a secret – workplace dating often ends in tears.As the old saying goes "you don't dip your pen in the company ink." In other words, you shouldn't get into a dating or sexual relationship with a co-worker.But consider this: according to a recent Workplace Options survey, nearly 85% of 18-29 year olds would have a romantic relationship with a co-worker, compared to just over 35% for 30-46 year olds and about 30% of 47-66 year olds.

Yet, despite this, co-workers continue to wind up in bed together, restrictions and warnings be damned.

But a lot of companies don't let the rank and file decide--they adopt policies that ban or limit workplace dating--all in the name of lowering liability.

Enforcing these policies can take their toll on a company. Earlier this year, Best Buy's chief executive, Brian Dunn, stepped down after an investigation by the board discovered he had shown "extremely poor judgment" with a 29-year-old female employee.

When you spend eight or nine hours a day with the same group of people, you're likely to form close bonds and friendships.

It's only natural that, on occasion, those friendships evolve into something more.


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