Most Companies Don't Bar Office Romance

February 5, 2002 ( - Most human resources professionals and corporate executives think romances in the workplace should be discouraged, however, their employers generally don't prohibit such dalliances.

This is among the findings of a survey on workplace romance produced jointly by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and, The Wall Street Journal’s career Web site.

Seventy-five percent of HR professionals and 59% of executives said their organizations had no policy on workplace romance. For those organizations that do have policies, 64% of HR professionals and 52% of executives said their organizations permitted, but discouraged, such workplace romance.

HR professionals and executives varied in their responses about the potential challenges and consequences that may arise from a workplace romance. 

Over 80% of HR professionals and 76% of executives said that workplace romances were dangerous because they can lead to conflict in the organization. Respectively, 76% and 71% said workplace romances would be something they would personally avoid.

Almost 60% of executives said that workplace romances should be banned because of the potential for retaliation if the romance ends, while only 12% of HR professionals agreed.

Executives, at 58%, were also more likely to view such romances as non-professional, and 32% agree that they almost always end in disaster, while only 38% and 24% of HR professionals said the same. 

SHRM believes that the differences in perception may be dbecause executives are more involved in the daily repercussions of workplace romance than their colleagues in HR who are only notified when a problem arises.

While workplace romance clearly presents challenges, it is also a success in many cases.  Two thirds of HR professionals and 57% of corporate executives reported that over the past five years, employees who had been involved in a workplace romance got married.

The survey also found that about a quarter of the organizations are offering training on ways to best manage workplace romances- a 10% increase over the last three years.

The survey respondents included 558 HR professionals surveyed by SHRM and 663 corporate executives surveyed by the Web site.