SURVEY SAYS: Do You Have a Policy on Workplace Dating?

March 10, 2005 ( - Workplace romances/affairs are back in the headlines - and this week we asked readers if their company had a policy on workplace dating.

Interestingly enough, though sexual harassment concerns dominate many a workplace, a whopping 87.7% of this week’s respondents said their workplace had no such policy – at least not an explicit policy prohibiting the activity.  

A number of readers noted the implied nature of such policies, such as the reader that said, “Not specifically, but addressed broadly: ‘engaging in or creating the potential perception of involvement in improper personal relationships with employees inside or outside the workplace which may, or potentially may appear to, disrupt the work unit, impair an individual’s ability to effectively perform his or her duties, cause employee relations issues, or otherwise compromise the level of a person’s professionalism in the workplace.’

Roughly 8% did have such a policy, including the reader that said, ” The written policy is under the code of ethics and prohibits relationships where one employee has direct responsibility for another (i.e., manager dating an employee that works for them.)   Then there is also the unspoken rule not to let personal relationships disrupt the workplace, as they most certainly will should said escapades become the fodder of the gossip mill.”   One reader said, “We do not have an organization-wide policy addressing the issue of workplace romance, intradepartment/divisional dating, etc. BUT WE NEED ONE!”

A number of readers thought there was such a policy – but, as this reader notes, “I was surprised to find that we don’t have a policy on dating.   There’s an implied policy within the sexual harassment policy, and a supervisor can’t be related to a subordinate, but that’s all we’ve got.”   Another reader noted, “I was not familiar with any such dating policy, so I went to our on-line official Policy Directory to check. Either I couldn’t find one (it might be buried somewhere else, such as in a generic Code of Conduct-type heading), or we do not have one.”   Still another reader went checking – and was surprised to report, “I didn’t realize, until you took this survey, that our company’s policy is that if two co-workers are dating, they cannot work in the same department.   It doesn’t really affect me all that much, but it does make me curious about what goes on in those little cubicles….”

One reader that apparently DOES know what goes on in those little cubicles, observes, “I could not find any reference to dating a co-worker…after careful review of our handy-dandy Employee Handbook.   Which may be a good thing because it gives those of us in the ‘know’ the right to turn a blind eye and keep our mouths shut!”  

Among the roughly 4% who didn’t know was the reader who said, ”  I don’t know, and I don’t want to find out.”    

Obervation “Posts”

There were a number of humorous observations about the policy – lack of policy – or just people’s tendency to…be people.   A sampling:

“Our company does not have a policy regarding co-worker dating, and we have quite a few employees who would be very upset if we did.   Several couples have eventually married and had to either switch departments or leave the company.”  

“We allow for co-worker dating. Heck if we didn’t, we’d lose half of our employees as they are either dating, married, or in some cases, both! However, we do have a policy that such couples cannot be direct reports.”

“Since ours is a large company in a small town, co-worker dating is a big issue, and one that arises frequently.    We do have a written policy on co-worker relationships.”

“My company does not have a policy on co-worker dating.   It’s a good thing, too:   I met my husband my first day on the job.   We dated five years before getting married two years ago.”    

“There is no way my company could have a co-worker dating policy.   The owner and his wife are both employed here full time!”

“The policy at our organization, while unwritten, seems to be ‘come to work, pick a mate, and reproduce…many times, if necessary’ (the many times part applies to both picking a mate and reproducing).”

“The only rules are that you cannot date someone you report to or who reports to you.  Outside of that, it’s a free-for-all.  In fact, in our department, we have three married couples.  And in one case, one guy divorced wife number one, who was in our department (and still is), and married wife #2, who is also in our department.  For awhile, they all shared the same last name.”

“Workplace Romances????   How would you like to work here…..The Operations Manager romanced with the retired Director until she married the soon-to-be Director who is now Director.   The CFO’s next-in-line is his daughter.   When we receive death notices that someone’s mother died…it will probably mention three or four employees, some of whom supervise their sister or sister-in-law.   Aunts and nieces, cousins, etc, etc, etc.   Any relation you can name, we either have it or have had it and will continue to have it!      Most employees have no recourse to go to a higher manager because that higher manager is probably related to the director of operations/supervisor.”

Then there was the reader (ostensibly a chief actuary), who (tongue in cheek, we assume) said, “Our policy is to allow female employees to date the Chief Actuary, as long as they don’t tell my wife.   Their policy is ‘eeeeew.'”

However, this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who observed, “We do not have a policy on co-worker dating.   At least I hope we don’t.”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!   For some interesting perspectives on workplace romances, check out   HERE