Bully at Work Moody Boss Karma Office Gossip No Picnic Back stabber Plug your Ears Moody Boss

Look What Happened At NASA!

Pre-Valentine’s Day Challenger Survey


Workplace romances – real or imagined – can be a legal and public relations minefield for any employer. Just ask NASA, which is caught in a bizarre imbroglio as one of its female astronauts allegedly attempted to kidnap a woman whom she believed was a competitor for the affections of a fellow astronaut.

Despite the pitfalls, 35 percent of employers in a new survey have no formal policy regarding romance between co-workers. The survey conducted among 100 human resource executives one week before Valentine’s Day (February 14) by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., revealed that while many companies discourage such relations, others simply maintain a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

“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,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“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,” said Challenger.

Forbidding supervisor-subordinate romance was the policy of choice among 45 percent of the companies surveyed by Challenger. Fourteen percent had no policy, but discouraged intra-office romance. Three percent simply turn a blind eye to such matters.

More companies may be enacting policies as the number of romantically involved workers grows. A recent survey by online career site Vault.com found that nearly 60 percent of workers have been involved in an office romance, up from 46 percent three years ago. Thirty-eight percent of those polled know of an ongoing office romance.

“Adding a new wrinkle to the workplace romance issue is the growing popularity of social and professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn, MySpace and Friendster, that make the time it takes for an office romance to bud about as fast as your internet connection,” said Challenger.

“More workers have access to an increasingly interactive Internet right at their desks. With Web 2.0, as this more collaborative Internet is known, it is easier to foster and hide intra-office relationships.

“Companies are probably reluctant to cut off access to social and professional networking sites since many are incorporating them into their business and marketing strategies.”

MySpace alone has over 100 million users, and it recently introduced a new job-search feature. It makes sense that the corporate world would begin using such software internally for idea sharing, web conferencing and new business development.

Recently, computer industry giant IBM launched an internal social networking product called Lotus Communications, which will be marketed to companies trying to harness the power of Web 2.0. The software will bring all the attributes of MySpace or Facebook to the office with the main goal of boosting productivity, collaboration and creativity.

“As the growing number of singles in the workplace spends more hours on the job, the office replaces health clubs and bars as the primary place to meet new people. Now, the Internet is becoming a rival to the office as the No. 1 social networking location,” said Challenger.

As evidence of the Internet’s growing prominence in matchmaking, E-harmony, a dating website that has been around since 2000, now has over 12 million registered users. Moreover, recent statistics from Swinburne University in Australia found that Internet affairs have replaced the office romance as the biggest cause of broken relationships. Half the respondents who found a relationship online were involved with someone else at the time.

“Now, with professional networking sites, co-workers in the same office or across the country can meet, share ideas and discuss work as well as non-work-related issues. The constant communication and discovery of their mutual goals and interests could eventually form something beyond a professional relationship,” said Challenger.

“While relationships between co-workers seem harmless on the surface, they can present a host of problems for employers. Misinterpreted feelings could result in an unwanted advance, resulting in a harassment lawsuit.

“Even seemingly minor problems, such as rumors at work or a breakup, could lead to lost productivity and a decrease in morale. If the situation escalates, once-valuable employees could resign their positions due to the uncomfortable work environment,” said Challenger.

“The proliferation of social networking, blogging and instant messaging adds an entirely new dynamic to the way employees communicate about work and non-work issues. The new technology should be considered when formulating policies regarding workplace romance, harassment, etc.,” recommended Challenger.


This survey was conducted among 100 human resource executives one week before Valentine’s Day (February 14) by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Does your company have a formal policy regarding office dating?

45% Allow relationships as long as they are not between supervisor and subordinate.

35% Do not have a formal policy

14% Do not have a policy, but such relationships are discouraged

3% Maintain a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy

3% Other

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.©



$119.67 The amount the average consumer will spend on Valentine’s Day in 2007, up from $100.89 in 2006

$156.22 The average amount expected to be spent by men, nearly double the $85 expected to be spent by women

$16.9 Billion Estimated spending on Valentine’s Day in 2007

$2.6 Billion Amount spent on jewelry in the month of February, 2006

189 Million The number of roses produced for Valentine’s Day in 2006

Source: National Retail Federation


  1. 5 Answers to “Look What Happened At NASA!”

  2. i think they need something in ploicy, i know there is so much filth in the office it’s sick

    By Debbie Sterk on Oct 27, 2009

  1. 4 Trackback(s)

  2. Aug 24, 2007: A policy to deal with romance at office | Career Blog
  3. Dec 9, 2014: Romance in the Workplace: Happy Valentine's Day | Lancaster Law Blog
  4. Dec 9, 2014: Corner Office No Place for Workplace Romance: The Legal Risk of Sexual Favoritism | Lancaster Law Blog
  5. Dec 9, 2014: Fishing off the Company Dock: A Legal Perspective | Lancaster Law Blog

What's your advice?

(You can also tweet it to @dearOP)