Survey: 33% of bad office romances result in a termination

A recent survey from global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., found that 70% of offices with rules about dating in the office don’t permit manager-direct report relationships and 62% of HR leaders said their employer has had to manage “a romantic relationship” that was unsuccessful or “inappropriate” in the office. Of those, 33% led to at least one person involved getting fired.

How #MeToo has impacted office sexual harassment policies

While the survey of 150 HR leaders found that since the #MeToo movement, just 34% said they’ve reassessed their office’s rules regarding sexual harassment, 63% said they haven’t because they “are comfortable with” their current policy, and 3% reported not having any guidelines at all regarding harassment in the workplace. Of those that have reassessed policies, 75% said they didn’t “update” them.

Andrew Challenger, Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., commented on the research:

“Real-life office romances are nowhere near as straightforward as they are portrayed on TV. The Office’s Jim and Pam are outliers in the actual workplace. Unequal power, unclear boundaries, bad breakups, and office politics all have potentially career-ending and life-altering consequences for employees, which is why HR policy addressing relationships is crucial in protecting everyone’s best interests … The best way to head off potential problems stemming from office romances is to create and communicate a policy with clear-cut guidelines for what employees need to do to communicate their relationships to their companies, and what will happen to their employment should the relationship end.”

Where employers stand on office romance

The survey (which allowed respondents to respond to multiple answers) also found that 47% of HR leaders look down upon “manager/subordinate and inter-department relationships,” but don’t get involved with “cross-department” or ones with workers on the same corporate level.

But, while 10% of HR leaders reported that their employers don’t get involved in office relationships until something goes wrong, 33% say their office evaluates them “on a case-by-case basis.” Just 7% don’t have a problem with any kind of office romance as long as the company is aware of it, and 17% said their company must be made aware of every relationship.

More than half (56%) of those surveyed say they have “a formal written policy” on office romances that they go over with all workers, while on the other end of the spectrum, 3% say that they don’t mind romances among employees.

But when it comes to office romances, it’s wise to tread lightly — whether your employer has an official dating policy or not.