In fact, one reader noted “I can’t imagine a promotion so great that it would be worth sleeping with Letterman–as undoubtedly hilarious the experience would be.”
This week I asked readers if YOU ever dated a boss/subordinate (you might be surprised how many have) – and how those turned out.
Well, roughly three-fourths of this week’s respondents said they had never dated either a boss or a subordinate (or, as one reader noted, “Not only no, but h*** no!” ) – though in that mix, 6.2% admitted that they could have, and another 7% said they wanted to, including a reader who recalled, “He wasn’t interested. Besides, his boyfriend would have objected, I’m sure.” Another reader said, “My father and I have a family owned and operated business and my wife works with us. We were married before she was employed so technically the answer would be no.” Another said simply, “I was raised better than that.”
Among the rest, there were 7% who said “not sure I would call it dating” (including the reader who recalled, “I thought it was dating. He didn’t. It was definitely an important lesson for me, but all the same, I hate learning stuff like that the hard way.”
And the remaining 19.4% ? Well, they have gone where so many say you should never goâ€¦(including the reader who noted “A wise former colleague of mine once told me, “Don’t get your meat where you get your bread”. I’ve seen the aftermath of workplace romances, and must say that is some of the best advice I’ve ever been given.”
But does it have to be a problem? Well, setting aside the very real issues of hara.ssment, I asked readers to share how their particular experience(s) turned out - and, lo and behold, a whopping 39% said they married that boss/subordinate (not all of those were long-term positive, unfortunately - more on that in a minute) - and more than one-in-five ( 22% ) said things turned out fine, while a full 8% said things turned out "more than fine." As one reader noted, "I dated my boss and it was great while it lasted."
Among the happy results:
"Conversations over a year discovered we were both in bad marriages. We gave two months notice to our current spouses and left to begin an affair after the notice period. Just celebrated 30 years.....and they said it wouldn't last!"
"She was actually a former subordinate. When I developed an interest in her I asked that she be reassigned to a different supervisor. Fortunately my boss - who is more tolerant than I might have imagined - accommodated my request and - as they say - the rest is history."
"I dated my boss and was treated worse than everyone else just to prove that I wasn't being favored. But it all worked out, we've been married for 13 years."
That said, 14% said it didn't turn out well, 8% said it turned out "really badly," and for 6% the response was "what's worse than really badly?"
Oh, and for some - 1% - the response was "I'll let you know" - when it's over.
As for workplace policies on dating, nearly half ( 45.2% ) said they had no policy, compared with just under 30% who said they did - and 25% who said they "weren't sure" (see also SURVEY SAYS: Do You Have a Policy on Workplace Dating? ).
As for what the parameters of those policies are, 43.5% said that coworkers could date, but not boss/subordinate, roughly one-in-five said simply that workplace dating was allowed. Just over 2% said that dating was allowed, but that it had to be disclosed, while 1% said that dating was allowed, but not among co-workers.
Just 5.4% said that workplace dating wasn't permitted - though the remaining 28.3% said they weren't sure.
I asked readers if they had any stories they wanted to share, and there were some "good" ones, including the following:
- Volumes have been written on the subject -- I know that because I've read most of them in an attempt to learn how to deal with the issue. Regardless of how it works out for the couple, it's not good news for management, particularly if it involves a manager.
- It wasn't a boss or subordinate, but I dated and later married a co-worker! Still together after 20 years!
- I met BOTH my husbands at work - enough said
- I'm a happily married man with two beautiful little boys, but it's sometimes difficult when all 15-20 of your co-workers are women!!!
- I never have, but years ago a member of our management team starting dating one of our administrative staff. They were both married at the time, and it got very ugly both in the office and out of the office. They both voluntarily left within several weeks of it blowing up. With the manager's wife forcing a move out of state. And the administrative person taking a job with a client.
- We got married and 15 years later, we are still together and very happy. After 3 years, she left to get her masters degree.
- Not dating, but we did have a husband and wife who worked in the same building and it was a nightmare. Too often, they would come into the workplace angry and stand at the ends of a long hall yelling at each other in "inexpressible" words. They didn't care who heard...and everyone in the building did. I left that company, so I don't know how it turned out.
- It's never a good idea to date someone at work. If/when it doesn't work out, you still have to see the person every day and pretend like everything is just fine. The person I dated was in another department so it wasn't a big deal. I don't think anyone should ever date a subordinate or their boss. That's a recipe for disaster!
My sister ended up married to her boss. They worked for an employer with a strict no dating rule and hide their marriage for over a year, until the boss was laid off.
- The CEO of a bank where I once worked had a great story: On a weekend, he went in to the office and, as he approached, he could hear sounds coming from his office. He poked his head in the door and saw that his desk had been taken over by a VP and a secretary! According to the CEO, he gave them a minute to tidy up and the VP resigned on Monday! No other words were exchanged!
- When I was younger I used to do it all the time. When I was 17 I had a 24 year superior that made all kinds of sexual advances towards me. She would tell how she would have erotic dreams and fantasies about me. She was not very attractive so I spurned her advances. I probably dated or "hooked up" with 4-5 girls out of that one workplace. The older and more professional my career became the less I wanted or needed the complications of a workplace romance.
- Everyone knows in the group even if the people try to keep it secret and it is not forgotten.
- Lesson from a friend - never share your workplace passwords with the co-worker you're dating. When you break up it is too easy for that person to send an inappropriate email to the company from your computer that would cause you to be fired for breaking the internet content policies.....
- I actually met my husband while we worked for the same company but in different divisions. He was in corporate accounting, I was in one of our branches, and we met on the company softball team. I played right field and he was in right center, and he asked me out while we were heading to the outfield one inning. And the rest is history...
- Since I was up front about dating my assistant my partners showed me the door, but bought me out for a handsome sum. Within a year their largest client went belly up and they did too. My wife and I will be celebrating our 25th anniversary and our good fortune, in January.
- I dated a subordinate after he had left the company to work for one of our clients. He knew how sensitive I was about the whole thing (I.e. people not finding out, how it would look, would they wonder if it had started earlier) so when I broke it off with him he tried to blackmail me. He thought I owed him money for things during the relationship. I called his bluff and he went away.
- "We had been co workers for 5 years in a small office. He moved to manager position. Then he quit and returned as a consultant. Only then did we start dating but no one in the office knew. He now jokes that he had told friends that he could not date me before because I was a subordinate. He really likes that word a little too much.
- We got engaged on vacation and I had to hope the postcard made it back before I did with a ring on my hand. We've been married 14 years."
- It's certainly icky. I had to see the ex every day, and occasionally work on projects together. Each time I had to interact with him, I tried my derndest to be breezy and professional, saying things like, "That report's due at 3, do you have the new data points?" when the whole time this little voice in my head kept mocking me, "Ha! He's seen you naked."
- The founder of the company and his wife work here. They have been married for over 45 years and worked together over 17 years. That has to be love!
- Though they did turn a blind eye when two members of our executive team secretly dated, left the company and later married. Most employees who knew the individuals knew it by the number of lunches and business trips taken together. Seems to be a double standard.
- My husband once worked for an organization where two people were let go after being caught having sex in an office.
Among my favorite verbatims this week were the following:
"As a HR professional, I try not to develop close relationships with any member of the company.
Never know when you will be across the desk discussing their exit."
"I dated a colleague who then became my boss. Yikes, I was sleeping with my boss and didn't like the way my boyfriend managed people. I left very soon after he became my boss. I took a job that a recruiter called him to interview for - I was a better fit. Well, my boss is now my husband and the father of my three children. I guess I am the boss now!"
"I can't think of any boss or subordinate I would have even considered dating."
"Getting to know them by working with them has always made it unappealing to date them."
"Are you out of your mind?"
"When I was young, 24 or 25, my boss got a new admin asst, one week went by and he noticed a picture of me on her desk, he called me in, explained that actually since she did my expenses and things she was actually a subordinate of mine and that I had to stop dating her. I agreed. He then congratulated me on being able to get to the point of having my picture on her desk, within a week."
"Haven't worked for anyone I would WANT to date!!"
"We're a family owned business - enough said."
"There's nobody in this office that would make it worth asking the question, sadly enough."
"I met BOTH my husbands at work - enough said."
But this week's Editor's Choice goes to the reader who noted, "I own the company and I have one assistant. We are both happily married. I do not have an official policy on workplace dating but I am sure my wife does."
Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!
- But she was not a subordinate when we started dating...........I was in college and working night shift manager at a local burger joint. My girlfriend needed a job so I got her hired at my restaurant. At times we worked together, so strictly speaking I dated a subordinate.
- I dated my boss and it was great while it lasted.
- Dated my boss, but kept it a secret (we thought) from other staff. We've been married 20 years.
- My father and I have a family owned and operated business and my wife works with us. We were married before she was employed so technically the answer would be no.
- I married a coworker but he was in a different department entirely. It didn't turn out well at all but that had nothing to do with the work relationship. He had trouble telling the truth apparently.
- No one knew until after I had requested a transfer and we announced our engagement.
- I was raised better than that
- I can't think of any boss or subordinate I would have even considered dating.
- A wise former colleague of mine once told me, "Don't get your meat where you get your bread". I've seen the aftermath of workplace romances, and must say that is some of the best advice I've ever been given.
- It was early in my career and first management job. We were both single. Nevertheless, I was the supervisor and she was not. We seemed discreet but, as usual, everybody knew. An older and wiser mentor (who may or may not have "been there" before) kindly set me straight. The relationship ended but the stigma, for both of us, hung on. Oddly enough, a few months later we were both displaced in a business shuffle and economic downturn. She went east and I went west and didn't reconnect. Since then, I've never played with fire again. You know, I forgot to thank that mentor for a great lesson they never taught in management school. Thanks Lee, wherever you may be.
- Number one rule: No fishing in the company pond!
- Married early (before I got into the fulltime workplace) and successfully, fortunately for me. What I know about my (mostly younger) coworkers makes it laughable to even consider destroying my marriage by dating one of them. The younger generation is all about "me" and considers sacrifice and commitment a joke. I go home every night, kiss my spouse, and thank God for what I have.
- "As a HR professional, I try not to develop close relationships with any member of the company.
- Never know when you will be across the desk discussing their exit."
- Conversations over a year discovered we were both in bad marriages. We gave two months notice to our current spouses and left to begin an affair after the notice period. Just celebrated 30 years.....and they said it wouldn't last!
- She was actually a former subordinate. When I developed an interest in her I asked that she be reassigned to a different supervisor. Fortunately my boss - who is more tolerant than I might have imagined - accommodated my request and - as they say - the rest is history.
- I was young (24ish) and boss took me out to a nice dinner while wife was out of town - I just thought it was business-related (I know, naive). Nothing happened that shouldn't have. However, same gentleman did end up having an affair with another young lady a few years later that broke up his marriage.
- My wife and I have been together since 11th grade - 43 years! We got it right the first time; why screw it up?
- I was in high school. He drove me home from work and met the family. I think that cinched it - no date! I can probably thank my five younger siblings for that!
- I dated my boss and was treated worse than everyone else just to prove that I wasn't being favored. But it all worked out, we've been married for 13 years.
- Not only no, but h*** no!
- At my first job there was only one guy in our department. I was fresh out of college and 22 years old. He was about 30. I immediately formed a crush on him but thought for sure he would never be interested in me. Three years later our department was let go after an acquisition. We were at the going away party, which my boyfriend then and now was at, and he made it clear it had been interested in me. We are still friends but it makes me wonder if it ever would have worked out.
- I dated a colleague who then became my boss. Yikes, I was sleeping with my boss and didn't like the way my boyfriend managed people. I left very soon after he became my boss. I took a job that a recruiter called him to interview for - I was a better fit. Well, my boss is now my husband and the father of my three children. I guess I am the boss now!
- There is a reason why many companies forbid this activity!
- Getting to know them by working with them has always made it unappealing to date them.
- I dated one of my college professors. It didn't seem to impact the class (other than my interest level), but ended as soon as the semester was over.
- In my first job out of college, I ran a snack bar at a Women's College, and a great lady worked for me. I fell hard for her, but never asked her out; I was clearly over my head. A man needs to know when a woman is out of his league. Besides, she had hers, I had mine, and it didn't seem right somehow, even if it wasn't a real boss/employee relationship (no performance reviews, no control over her pay, etc. But I then got my first professional job (in the pension industry) and left the snack bar job. We stayed friends, and we both broke up with our "others". 37 years later, we just had our first grandchild, and I still think that I "outkicked my coverage". One of my son's came to me and asked "Dad, you and Mom have had a great relationship over many years. What's the secret?" I answered him "Marry a lady with low expectations. I don't think Mom still knows what a catch she was."
- I wouldn't dream of it. Always a bad idea.
- He wasn't interested. Besides, his boyfriend would have objected, I'm sure.
- I introduced my brother to a girl I worked with and they started dating. A month later there was a re-org and she became my boss. That lasted for about 4 months when another re-org got me a different position. Turned out OK - they have been married for about 15 years and I have a really cute nephew.
- If you and seem them in a line-up you would know why the answer is a solid "no".
- Absolutely not! That is wrong on so many levels. The moral decay of society is very troubling.
- She technically didn't report to me, but I was higher on the totem pole in the group.
- Are you out of your mind?
- I thought it was dating. He didn't. It was definitely an important lesson for me, but all the same, I hate learning stuff like that the hard way.
- I dated a coworker, but not a boss/subordinate.
- I have been married since the dawn of time or at least my working career, so my husband would have frowned on my dating my boss/subordinate.
- When I was young, 24 or 25, my boss got a new admin asst, one week went by and he noticed a picture of me on her desk, he called me in, explained that actually since she did my expenses and things she was actually a subordinate of mine and that I had to stop dating her. I agreed. He then congratulated me on being able to get to the point of having my picture on her desk, within a week.
- My husband was hired to work here after we were married. We got divorced but I still had the "pleasure" of working with him for the next 3 1/2 years. Eventually, the company figured out what I knew about him so he no longer works here.
- Haven't worked for anyone I would WANT to date!!
- As my superior 18 years ago and still do even though his job was downsized in 1995 and he has moved several times and is now 4 hours away, we talk multiple times a day and see each other about every 2 months for a day or two, have a child together but never married. In my opinion, it's the ideal relationship. By the way, no one at work ever knew. We were best friends.
- Dated former boss after reorganization occurred.
- I have worked with several people that dated the boss over the years. Some ended in marriage (& then divorce) & some ended badly. I'm not sure why a boss would put himself in a position to be sued for sexual harassment these days but it continues to happen.
- For boss/subordinate situations, the general policy is, "No fishing in the company pond." (I think it is a good policy but it is very difficult to enforce.)
- We don't prohibit dating but if they do decide to date and they are in a boss/subordinate situation at work, one of them needs to find another job either within or outside the organization. They can't be in the same department in a boss/subordinate relationship.
- We're a family owned business - enough said
- We don't have a specific policy and we have a few married couples here. We don't allow them to be in a boss/subordinate roll but they have worked in the same department.
- I own the company and I have one assistant. We are both happily married. I do not have an official policy on workplace dating but I am sure my wife does.
- There's nobody in this office that would make it worth asking the question, sadly enough.
- We have no strict rules about it and it has happened in the past. We just try to make sure that it doesn't get out of hand or that it doesn't affect our business.
- I actually had to quit my job so we could continue dating. Now we have been married for 20 years!
- "Dating" not in employee manual, but sexual harassment is prohibited. All employees must take a course that discourages boss/subordinates dating to prevent sexual harassment.
- But, I will say you place yourself under additional scrutiny
- There is a lot of intermingling between coworkers here and lots of other family connections, too. I don't know of any boss/subordinate relationships, but it bears warning that you need to be careful who you're talking to because they could be related to the subject of your conversation!
- I think it's OK for boss/subordinates to date, but you cannot be married. Even at a company the size of ACMEXT, we had THREE married couples in our department, and they had to swizzle the org chart so none of the folks reported to their spouse.
- I have worked at the same organization for over 17 years and I am not aware of anyone ever dating a co-worker. We have a small staff ~ 40 and most are women and the men are generally either married or in long-term relationships. If it has ever happened the individuals involved have been very discreet.
- Many wind up getting married. When you have a large number of single 20 and 30 somethings all working long hours together it's inevitable. Work is the one place they are likely to meet prospective partners.
- I think it's an unwritten rule that it's not a good career move.