Romance in the Workplace Is Totally Ick

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Valentine’s Day is coming up. I know because my daughter–along with recruiters, temp agencies, employment lawyers and even my employer–keep telling me so.

My kid, I forgive; she’s just aping her teachers, who are possibly brainwashing her so that I’ll remember to supply the cupcakes. In the spirit of Cupid, I also forgive the PR folks: they figure I’m going to write something pegged to V-Day and are providing me with an angle. In other words, they’re just doing their jobs.

So if you’re a friendly publicist type planning to follow up on your V-day pitch, I’ll make it clear. Here’s my stand on this: I think romance in the workplace is creepy. The thought of people I work with finding love amid the cubicles makes me throw up in my mouth a little. Don’t put up hearts around your office or involve me in a Secret Valentine. I love a lot of my colleagues. Just not in that way.

Recent news events support my anti-work-love position. Look at poor Lisa Nowak. How is she supposed to face the people at work, now that she’s driven halfway across the country in diapers to pepper-spray a colleague over her unrequited love for their hunky superior? Of course, she’s probably a little more worried about the intended murder charge. But still, it would have made for a really uncomfortable few weeks around the NASA watercoolers.

The whole astronaut love triangle thing brought to the fore some interesting workplace facts, though. Like, did you know one-third of employers lack an employee dating policy? That’s according to a survey by my friends at outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. CEO John Challenger writes:

“Admittedly, a formal policy on workplace romance would have done little for NASA, where it appears that the unrequited affections of one astronaut for another drove her to make some pretty poor decisions. No policy can prevent this type of irrational behavior. However, most companies would benefit by spelling out the rules of workplace romance. It would be foolhardy to completely outlaw all romantic associations between co-workers, but companies can prohibit such relationships between supervisors and their subordinates.

More findings:

• 45% of companies forbid supervisor-subordinate romance;

• 14% have no policy, but discourage intra-office romance;

• 3% simply turn a blind eye.

It’s not that I’d advocate forbidding workplace romance. I get the argument; with our 24/7 workstyles, how else are we supposed to find a mate if not at the office? I just don’t want to know about it, is all. Until you get married or you both quit.

Here’s the workplace romance policy I’d advocate: don’t ask, don’t tell, and for the love of Pete don’t practice PDA among your colleagues.

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