The office romance is alive and well, according to a new survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.
Despite increased scrutiny on workplace relationships in the #MeToo era, a quarter of the 696 workers surveyed in a report released earlier this month say they’ve had at least one dalliance with a co-worker. Of people who’ve had affairs with colleagues, roughly one in four say they dated a boss; one in five said they dated a subordinate.
Executive behavior has been under a microscope since allegations of sexual assault and harassment in October 2017 toppled movie producer Harvey Weinstein. More than 1,400 powerful people have been accused of misconduct ranging from boorish comments to rape, according to crisis consultancy Temin and Co. Only about 18 cases in the tally involved a consensual relationship.
Still, companies are now examining all flavors of workplace relationships. Over the summer, BlackRock fired a human resources executive over a consensual affair that violated company policy. Months later, McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook lost his job for having a relationship with an employee. Even before #MeToo, 99% of companies had policies preventing bosses from dating their direct reports.
But official procedures on office romances should be more nuanced, said SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. “Employers simply can’t forbid the reality of romance within the workplace,” he said in a statement accompanying the report. “Instead, they should reflect on their culture and ensure their approach is current, realistic, and balanced in ways that protect employees while leaving them free to romance responsibly.”