Despite the abundance of advice in the blogosphere suggesting that having an office romance is career suicide, 40 percent of people surveyed admit to being involved in an office romance at some point in their careers. Whether the romances are fueled by intrigue over the well-publicized office affairs of people like Mark Souder, Tiki Barber, David Letterman, and Bill Clinton, or because people relate to the relationships of TV characters such as Jim and Pam from 'The Office' or Sam and Diane from 'Cheers,' it is pretty clear that office romances aren't going away anytime soon.
So why do people initiate romantic relationships with co-workers? There are a number of reasons, including:
- Distraction. Let's face it: No one is focused solely on their work every moment they are in the office. There is a huge social component to the world of work, and without it people would probably be less productive in the long run. Some of us are more distracted than others; in extreme cases the distraction with the person we like becomes an obsession... and yes that is a bad thing. But in other cases, having that person around makes you happier, more motivated, and overall more productive.
- Ambition.Yes, people still start relationships for professional gain, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are evil or will get burned in the end. Some people in a position of power take a genuine interest in helping and mentoring subordinates and really want them to succeed -- and the sex evolves from the bond that is formed.
- Connection. Being part of a team or an exciting corporate initiative can be like an aphrodisiac. It's a feeling that you only share with the people on the project, as no one else can relate to the importance of the project the same way as a teammate.
- Acceptance. Many people feel that their office mates understand them better than friends, family, and spouses -- perhaps because they understand each other professionally or they both relate to the culture of the company.
- Education. Co-workers often have knowledge to share with each other that can be valuable in one's career. The desire to share and gain that knowledge can lead to an increase in attraction.
- Convenience. We spend a lot of time with the people we work with. We get to know them faster and with less effort than others because of the consistent exposure. Sometimes relationships emerge out of simple convenience.
- Proximity. I was once in a relationship with someone who worked on the same floor as me. When my department moved to the building next door, the relationship fizzled and he met someone upstairs. Go figure.
- Avoidance. Many people who start a romantic relationship with a co-worker are avoiding a problem that has surfaced in their marriage. Sometimes it's easier to work late than to go home.
- Excitement. This is a big one. Office romances are taboo and somewhat secretive by nature. The fact that you run the risk of being caught is a big turn-on for some.
- Revenge. Many office relationships no doubt start because one person is trying to get back at someone else for something and an affair with a co-worker is an easy fix. Perhaps not the smartest move, but one that happens frequently enough.
While I'm not condoning office romances and recognize that relationships between a boss and a subordinate can quickly become a slippery slope, I have heard countless stories of people who met at work and "lived happily ever after." What about you? Have you ever been involved in a romantic relationship with a co-worker? Do you now regret it or was it a decision that changed your life for the better?