Research: Nearly half of employers frown on workplace romance

The ouster of McDonald’s respected CEO this week underscores the fraught nature of pursuing flings or flirtation in today’s environment.

How to handle workplace romance

Romance can bring joy, spice and warmth to any workplace, but certain sparks can ignite fiery PR fiascos.

New research from Reboot Digital Marketing finds that 46% of employers would much prefer that you pursue love interests outside the office—especially if you hold a position of power.

As illustrated by McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook’s ouster—who lost his job (but not $70 million worth of stock options) due to a “consensual relationship with a subordinate”— managers, bosses and execs should be especially wary of pursuing intimate relationships. However, there’s a strong trend toward discouraging office flings altogether.

As SHRM writes: “[workplace romance] creates the potential for intimidation, retaliation or sexual-harassment claims, as well as real or perceived favoritism.”

Relationships gone awry can cause all sorts of internal turmoil. Reboot’s research found that office intimacy is often messy and inappropriate:

  • Forty-one percent of first kisses between colleagues take place at work or work event.
  • Twenty-two percent of employees admit to a fling with their manager or boss.
  • Thirty-six percent of those surveyed admit their office fling was extramarital for at least one participant.

What’s an HR department to do? On one hand, there’s a strong push for more “connectivity,” engagement and camaraderie among colleagues. On the other, there are well-founded fears about the implications of imploded relationships.

There’s no “right” way to handle employee dating, but your policies should be crystal clear. You might also note how certain large companies are tackling the issue.

For now, read the rest of Reboot’s findings to learn more about this crucial, complex and confounding workplace debate.

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