Most colleagues aren't bothered by office romances as long as they don't negatively affect the workplace, a new study has shown.
"Most people believe romantic relationships are OK as long as they don't affect productivity, de-motivate other colleagues or have an impact on the overall work environment," says Nina Cole, Ryerson University professor.
Cole's study involved 100 employees who were pursuing either full- or part-time studies at Ryerson University, and who had, at one point, observed a romance in the workplace.
The majority of those romances involved two single employees (75 per cent) in a peer-working relationship (76 per cent) in the same department (65 per cent). The average length of these office romances was 20 months.
The study found that participants believe certain conditions warranted managerial action with office romances such as: when the performance of co-workers was negatively affected; where the work environment was negatively impacted; and when negative emotion from a break-up affected a work environment previously unaffected by a workplace romance.
Employees also believe action should be taken when there is an office romance between a manager and an employee in the same department.
"Clearly, there are specific situations when co-workers perceive that managerial action should be taken. But they don't believe action should be taken all of the time," Cole said.
Cole believes it is important to implement policies about office romances even though it's an acceptable practice most of the time.
"Even a general policy is good. It acknowledges that office romances are a fact of organizational life, but it also sends the message that you shouldn't let romantic relationships affect the workplace," Cole said.
The study was published in December 2009 in the Journal of Business and Psychology.