Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

No Recession for Workplace Romance

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“I figure, since I work all the time, where else am I going to find potential romances? So if I meet someone, whatever, just go for it!”

Love is in the air…

The results of’s 2010 Office Romance Survey are in, and it appears that people are following their hearts rather than their heads when it comes to weighing the wisdom of a workplace hookup. Almost 60 percent of respondents admit to having participated in some form of workplace romance. Even the shaky economic situation is weighing less on people’s minds, with significantly fewer respondents this year reporting it as a factor in their decision-making process than in 2009—69.7 percent stated that the economy “hasn’t affected my willingness to take romantic risks at work.” That stands in stark contrast to last year, when fully 80 percent of respondents told us the economy had affected their willingness to take risks. As one lovelorn respondent put it, “If the person you meet could be your soul mate, you can’t pass up that chance. You can always get another job.”

…and in a closet near you

With that number of people getting involved at the workplace, it should come as little surprise that passions boil over at times—some 31.6 percent of those of you who have had some sort of office hook-up admit to having enjoyed a romantic liaison while on company property. And quite a few of you (six percent) have been caught in the act: “A janitor caught us in a dark supply closet when he opened the door and turned on the light,” confesses one busted lover.

While that particular incident ended reasonably well (the janitor “turned the light off and left”), others haven’t always been so fortunate. For example, one respondent recalls that a “former manager was demoted after being caught in flagrante in an elevator.”

It knows no bounds…

It’s not only the singletons that are getting in on the act: a whopping 53.2 percent of you reported that you know or have known of a married coworker having an affair at the office. “I worked for 2 Fortune 500 companies for years each, flying all over the country for meetings and events,” says one source. “It was almost a common practice with many of the men in highly responsible leadership roles to be having side affairs with people they either met with on the road, or office people they met up with while traveling. Some affairs lasted a short time, others went on for years.”

That can obviously lead to a lot of emotional baggage—both for the parties directly involved, and for their colleagues. One situation where “a married coworker was hooking up with another married coworker,” led to an inter-office break up that became “very ugly and destroyed employee morale and created awkward relationships between the ousted wife and people in the know.”

…but it can be platonic

Of course, not every office relationship is of the sizzling or illicit variety. The concept of the “office spouse”—a close but platonic relationship with a colleague—has been around for many years, and shows no signs of dying out anytime soon, with 31.9 percent of respondents admitting to having one. Even those, however, are not without their problems. While those who admit to having them generally report positive experiences—”definitely not romantic but one of the most important relationships in my life,” says one respondent—colleagues can view things differently.

“A previous boss did [have an office spouse],” says a source. “It was very uncomfortable because you knew info you told one person automatically was told to the other, just like in a spousal relationship.” And the gossip flows two ways: if you’re in a close relationship and talking about colleagues, chances are they’re talking about you. “Everyone thinks we’re having an affair,” says one respondent.

“You’re fired. And dumped.”

Whatever else this recession has in store, it doesn’t seem like fear of being laid off is going to stop people from taking their workplace relationships to another level. As one love-happy respondent puts it, “Cupid sends his little arrow and away you go wherever you are!” That’s not to say, however, that it hasn’t had any effect: of the office romances in which one of the partners was laid off, 60.9% ended when one or both partners left the company. And with the amount of layoffs we’ve seen recently, that’s a lot of broken relationships.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Despite the risks involved, people keep on coming back for more, suggesting that—whatever else happens—love will continue to bloom in even the unlikeliest settings. The good news for the woman who told us that office relationships are “how I got two out of three husbands” is that she isn’t alone—of those people who have already had a romantic encounter of some sort at work, a large majority—63.9 percent—said they would consider doing so again. Maybe that’s because 74.6 percent of respondents claim their companies don’t have any kind of intra-office relationship policy. Or maybe it’s because of the high success rate: almost 20 percent of people who reported having an office romance say it led to marriage. Whatever the reason, it seems that there’s precious little holding most of us back when it comes to matters of the heart trumping career concerns.
Visit for the full results and charts from our 2010 Office Romance Survey


Written by Phil Stott

February 17, 2010 at 5:06 pm

2 Responses

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  1. In our industry people work long hours and colleagues spend most of their waking day with one another. It’s no wonder this stuff happens again and again.


    February 17, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    • Thanks for the comment–I agree. What industry do you work in? Do you think it is specific to your industry, or just widespread?

      Linda Petock

      February 18, 2010 at 9:29 am

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