On one hand, it is natural to meet someone at the office: You automatically have things in common and feelings—both good and bad—are bound to develop when you spend so much time together in close quarters. On the other hand, it can get super messy when one side breaks it off—or when your romance becomes the subject of office gossip.
Given the amount of time we spend at work, it is little wonder that many people find their passion and excitement in the office. Some colleagues prefer discreet flirting with that one hottie or cutie in the office. It is something that is just there. As University of Botswana Sociology graduate Masego Ipitseng puts it: Love is everywhere. She states that one of the most painful things ever is suppressing strong feelings of love. Her take is that, if colleagues love each other, let them go ahead and pair. Company policies on the matter should not be unnecessarily hard on the issue, she says. “As long as your relationship does not affect your work, go ahead and hook up. Who knows? The best can happen.”
America’s President Barack and wife Michelle Obama, who met at a Chicago law firm in 1989 when he was a summer associate and she was his supervisor, are certainly not alone. In a study done by Forbes, called The State of office romance 2012, it was found that thirty-nine percent of workers said that they had dated a co-worker at least once during their working lives.
Actually, the number is too low. A competing website, Vault.com, ran an office romance survey for seven years, which came up with higher numbers for office coupling. Two years ago it found that 59 percent of respondents had dated a colleague at least once during their career. Vault has not run its survey since 2011.
Discretion is the key to a successful office romance, according to Mpho Mmoloki, an attorney. “Brushing past someone or a stolen glance over the photocopier is far more enticing than draping yourself over his desk,” he says. He has been there and done it. He finds nothing wrong with falling in love with a colleague, as he believes that ‘love has no boundaries.’ He reveals that they broke up when the woman relocated to South Africa two years. Nonetheless, they were so much into each other that they would forget that they worked together. “We both didn’t care about the gossip mongers because it was none of their business,” he shrugs off on how they took office politics on the matter. Mothusi Tshweneyagae, an accountant, does not find anything wrong with loving a colleague. He advises that subtle flirting should be taken into consideration as it allows you to maintain your professionalism and keep an air of mystery between you and your object of desire.
However, he says that if you do not want to be a regular feature of office gossip, it might be best to tell a few close colleagues about your romance. “That way people lose the intrigue and friends would not feel excluded. On the other hand, be aware that workplace relationships can incite jealousy,” he says, adding that people are usually bitter about the happiness of others. But on a sensitive matter, he cautions against sex in the workplace. “It’s all part of the package of an office romance but if you don’t want your cloakroom exploits broadcast at the Christmas party, look out for security cameras,” he laughs as he recalls how colleagues brag or lie about sleeping with others.
In response to the Forbes survey, Maria Petterson says that she is probably biased towards the higher number, since she met her husband at work. She was a spokesperson in one of the companies in South Africa while he was doing graphic design for the local station. They were not exactly colleagues, but went to work in the same building every day. “We met in the elevator, in fact. And hit it off right away,” she says. Of those who dated at work, Forbes study found that, like the Obamas, 30 percent said their office romances wound up leading to marriage. Participants were asked about where romantic relationships began. Among the answers: running into each other outside work: 12 percent, happy hours: 12 percent, late nights at work: 12 percent and at lunch: 11 percent.
The majority of workers said they were open about their relationships, while 35 percent said they kept their relationships secret.
While most people do not find a problem with letting their co-workers know about the love blossoming between the cubicle walls, the fine print of many a company contract says a little something about office romances. Usually, this fine print is a warning of some kind, so it is often a good idea to conceal your passionate office romp.
“While it is not recommended to indulge in an office romance, sometimes emotions and hormones get the best of you,” states Neal Kgotla, adding that the best way to conceal an office romance and cast a protective shell around your new relationship is to maintain your schedule throughout the work day. He advises that nothing should change.
People always notice significant changes in routine; especially if they are the gossipy office types, so avoid doing anything out of the ordinary. This means no lunches with your new partner, especially if you have never been known to socialise with that person on a friendly basis before.
However, it also means no purposely avoiding this person, as doing so will raise an equally visible red flag.