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College of Human Ecology

K-State professor says it's common for co-workers to form romantic relationships

Thursday, February 2, 2006

MANHATTAN -- You've noticed the attractive man or woman who works at your office and maybe have sent them a wink or two. And now, as Valentine's Day approaches, you wonder about your employer's policies on co-worker relationships and try to decide if dating within the workplace is a good idea.

Tony Jurich, professor of family studies and human services at Kansas State University, said co-worker relationships are becoming more common because people spend so much time working.

"People don't have the chance to do things that were done in previous times to meet people. The office becomes the most convenient place to date in terms of time," he said. "Time is precious. When you find somebody in the office, then it seems reasonable."

It's also easier to date someone from the office because you can get a sense of what a person is really like. When people are more knowledgeable about someone, there is less worry in the relationship, Jurich said.

Although dating in the workplace may be more common than people think, Jurich said there are potential problems. Co-workers need to consider likely rumors and how much office work will be interrupted because, too often, office romance can take precedence over a job, he said.

"The romance is exciting until a couple breaks up and unpleasant consequences arise. Commonly, a couple will work well together during a relationship, but when problems arise, little work is accomplished," Jurich said.

Employers don't typically like office relationships, Jurich said.

"The bottom line is that employers are responsible for making sure he work gets done," Jurich said. "Employees may like the relationship, but it slows down work and employers don't appreciate that. If the office is large enough and the person you date is in another area of the company and you see them maybe once a month, then there might not be as many problems. However, in a small office you are endangering your job and the work environment."

Jurich said the disadvantages of office dating often outweigh the advantages and advises couples to evaluate their needs together.

"Co-workers should sit down and ask themselves about what things could go wrong. That sounds defeatist, but it's to your advantage," he said.

"Also, get input from other people close to you. They know you and will have a better feel for the situation because they have an outside view. Sometimes we are the most blind when we are right in the middle."

Don't be narrow-minded and consider the relationship only through your viewpoint. Taking a broad view of the situation better prepares you for what's to come, Jurich said.

This article was posted on Thursday, February 2, 2006, and is filed under College News, Family Studies & Human Services.