Mars vs. Venus: Can Workplace Romance Work?

Today I have the latest in the long-running, multi-contributor series called “Mars vs. Venus.” In these posts we explore a topic (usually relationships) from the male angle (mine) and the female angle (in this case, Katy’s). We do not read each other’s posts in advance, so I’m just as curious as you are to read Katy’s perspective after posting this.

Today’s question: Can workplace romance work?

Unlike my stance on long-distance relationships, this answer is a little more nuanced. My short answer: In general, workplace romances are a bad idea at smaller organizations and perfectly fine at larger organizations.

Basically, size matters.

Small Organizations: This is like dating someone who happens to live in your apartment building. Sure, it’s really convenient, but they’re always there, and if you break up, they’re always there. With the shared apartment building, I still don’t think that would stop most people if you really connect with someone–heck, it definitely wouldn’t stop me. I’m all about convenience (I know, I’m SO romantic).

But I think the stakes are even higher when you’re talking about your job. This is your livelihood on the line. Do you really want to put that at risk? Also, if you really believe you’ve found your soul mate, do you want to spend 24 hours a day in such close quarters with them? I feel like that puts unwarranted pressure on a relationship.

Large Organizations: When you jump from a company of 15-20 people to one that has hundreds or thousands of employees, everything changes. Your work may have nothing to do with many of the other people at the company, and you probably don’t even see them every day except on the drive to and from work. I think it can easily work in those circumstances.

The only aspect of dating at a larger organization that I’d be worried about is not having any free time away from your significant other (if you also live together). It’s great to share lunch with each other a few times a week, but I think it’s healthy to also spend some of those lunches with other people. That’s basically my romantic philosophy in general: If someone becomes your entire world, you’re not in a healthy relationship.

The one overall piece I’d say for both small and large organization workplace romance is to make sure that both people are on the same page about the relationship. If one person is just looking for the occasional hookup and you’re looking to get married in 6 months, you’re going to have issues. This is the case in any relationship, but the problem is exacerbated when you’re inherently sharing space with someone else every day.

What do you think? Have you ever been in a workplace romance or see a coworker get involved in one? What did you learn from the experience? Also, don’t forget to go over to Katy’s blog to check it out–I’m headed over there right now to comment!