For our April Q&A with Dr. Zhana Vrangalova, we’re talking about Office Romance.
Is it possible to pursue a relationship in the business environment?
Absolutely and a lot of people do. A recent (2022) survey of American workers found that a third have had or are currently having an office romance, a half have had an office crush on a colleague, and 75% of them think that office romances are quite okay.
Why is it so appealing for some people? Why the excitement?
Oh, they’re very appealing to a lot of people and it makes sense. First, we spend a lot of time with these people so logistically it makes sense. Second, we typically share many similarities and interests with the people we work with, so we’re more likely to like them. Third, there’s a taboo element to office romance that a lot of us find exciting.
What are the office romance pros?
Well, you get to see your partner a lot more than you normally might. It makes going to work a lot more fun and exciting. It also comes with some perks, like collaborations or expanding your network, that you might not normally have. So there are some pros.
Does having sex with a coworker really affect work?
At the same time, office hookups or romances come with some real potential cons as well. It can be very distracting to have your partner at work, and seeing them all the time might not be the greatest thing. Any conflict that you’re in may spill into work. And then other colleagues can get involved on different sides and that creates even more disruption of the work environment.
Public displays of affection in the office? Yay or nay? Where is the line?
Unless you have a reason to be hiding your office romance, then I’d say some public displays of affection are okay, but I’d use them very sparingly and subtly. You don’t want to make people uncomfortable. The office may be a great place to meet people, but it’s not the place to be indulging in your sexual or romantic relationships.
If a breakup happens, what is the best advice you can share to handle the situation?
Over 90% of all relationships that get started end in a break up, so you have to be aware that that’s a very likely outcome of an office romance as well. That is why I would say only get involved in an office romance if you’re reasonably sure that you both can handle a break up like mature grown adults. How do you be a mature adult about it? First, try to have an amicable break-up with clarity and closure as much as possible so there’s as little unresolved anger and resentment as possible. Two, make a plan for how you’re going to be civil with each other at work and make sure your work and the work of others doesn’t suffer because of your breakup. And three, please don’t bring your colleagues and bosses into it and try to turn people against each other.
What do you think about office parties and hooking up with colleagues?
I love parties and I love hookups, so I’m all in. But hookups are often complicated. They are frequently ambiguous (with different people often having different hopes and expectations about what the hookup might mean) and not everyone can handle them and the aftermath very well. Again I would say only do that if you think you both can handle the hookup without it disrupting work for you and others.
What if I have feelings for my boss? What should I do? Should I ignore the feelings?
Now a boss is a different scenario. Having feelings of attraction for a superior is perfectly normal – power, status, and competence are very attractive to many of us. However, getting involved with someone who’s overseeing your work can be potentially highly problematic, creating a heightened potential for abuse of power and manipulation. So if you do have those feelings for your boss, I would suggest keeping them to yourself or maybe using them internally to get you motivated to be a better worker. But don’t act on them. If you two absolutely cannot not act on them, then try to get reassigned to different roles, so they’re no longer your superior.
Interested in discussing (non)monogamy-related topics with curious and open-minded folks from all over the world? Join Dr. Zhana’s monthly Open Smarter Social virtual event for FREE! April topic: Conquering Jealousy.