Workplace romance: Who's on top?

by Cameron Edmond14 Nov 2013

A tryst between work colleagues isn’t grossly uncommon. A study from CareerBuilder found 39% of workers have dated a co-worker at least once in their career, with 17% doing so at least twice, and 30% of those who have done so have ended up marrying that same person.

However, Kevin Herring, president of Ascent Management Consulting, feels that a romantic relationship between a team leader and one of their staff can negatively impact an organisation’s culture.

“While a workplace tryst may provide temporary bliss for the couple involved, bliss is not what the rest of the team will experience. Team openness, trust, collaboration, and commitment all suffer when a leader and one team member form an ‘item’,” he wrote on

Regardless of good intentions, the couple will begin to place their personal relationship above team objectives and commitments, and this may lead to favouritism. This can result in a breakdown of trust, as well as damaging morale, employee engagement and general work processes.

While Herring indicates that the problem may be one for team members to deal directly with the implicated manager before referring it on to the manager, his advice rings true for more hands-on managers or those seeing this kind of behaviour within their own team, as well.

Chances are one is likely to only be suspicious of such a relationship and not have evidence for it. In this case, managers should confront the leader they believe is involved with a team member with thoughtfulness and compassion about their behaviour and indicate how it is affecting the team.

Although this conversation may not solve any of the greater problems inherent between a romance blooming between a team member and their leader, having the conversation may mean the leader reconsiders the risks and ramifications of a relationship of this kind.


  • by oldBroker 14/11/2013 10:26:19 AM

    It always ends badly with someone being forced to leave (usually the subordinate). Don't dip your pen in company ink.