Navigating workplace romance

Thursday June 03 2021

Workplace romances can affect participants both positively and negatively. PHOTO/INTERNET

By Bradford Kamuntu

I am an avid watcher of movies old and new. By old, I mean as far back as those released when my grandparents were toddlers. Recently I stumbled on a not so old but not so new rom-com classic in its own right, 2002’s Two Weeks’ Notice starring Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant.

In it Sandra plays Lucy Kelson, a super intelligent lawyer doing liberal work specializing in historic preservation, environmental law and pro bono causes.

She initially meets Hugh’s character to stop him from destroying a historical building from her childhood.

While attempting to convince him not to take it down he discovers she graduated from Harvard Law School and is much more academically accomplished than he had assumed. He then propositions her to come on board as his new Chief Counsel and handle all legal matters. In return, he would not destroy any more historical landmarks inclusive of the one she approached him about.

As most movies go, the two develop a close friendship, he relies on her in an alarmingly needy and unprofessional manner and to some level a co-dependency is developed between the two. Only for them to come to the realisation that they are in love with each other which eventually like several similar relationships compromises the professional relationship.

However, this does not necessarily mean that all workplace romances end in doom and gloom. This also does not mean that their relationship compromises their careers or advancement at their establishment of employment.


Of course, it goes without saying that unsolicited advances and acts of sexual harassment and/or assault do not constitute as workplace romances. I just had to add this as a disclaimer just in case it is not as apparent to some readers.

Social psychological theories of repeated exposure are what determine how workplace romances are formed. Often it comes down to the degree of their physical and functional proximity to one another, people who are in each other’s space for long hours at a time develop a close kinship that sometimes extends beyond the boundary walls (literal and figurative) of the office.

Some workplaces have romance policies in place to forbid them and other’s do not so it is perhaps most important to take into consideration whether you will both be penalised for engaging in any relationship beyond a working one.

I have read stories about workplace romances that blossomed and became something great. But even as they grew one or both employees ended up leaving the organisation. Whether to safeguard their relationship or to not face being looked down upon at work is still a mystery.

Workplace romances can affect, both positively and negatively participants’ work-related attitudes and behavior. Examples of proposed impact factors include participants’ levels of job performance, work motivation, job satisfaction, job involvement, and organisational commitment.

Coworkers can also be affected by observing workplace romances.

For example, a workgroup’s morale may be lowered by observing a hierarchical romance wherein the higher-rank participant exhibits job-related favouritism toward the lower-rank participant

Workplace romances can lead to long-term relationships and even marriage but they can also result in uncomfortable situations for the people involved as well as their co-workers.

In the worst-case scenario, intertwining business and pleasure could result in an unplanned, unwanted job search, as people can get fired due to workplace relationships or be forced to resign because of a relationship gone wrong.

Before entering into a relationship, make sure it’s the real deal. Are you bonding over an intense project requiring late nights at work or shared frustration at a boss, or do you have a connection that extends beyond the office? Make sure you know the answer to that question before beginning a romantic relationship. 


The effects.

A work group’s morale may be lowered by observing a hierarchical romance wherein the higher-rank participant exhibits job-related favouritism toward the lower-rank participant