One in Five Have Had a Secret Romance at Work

office romance Some people love their jobs. Others take that idea a little further and find love at work. A new study by AOL Jobs reports that 20 percent of people secretly dated a co-worker. More men said that no one found out, compared to women.

The survey also found that 25 percent had an affair with someone at work -- and out of those having an affair, 43 percent reported that one of the people involved was married.

Sneaking into the copy room before walking down the aisle

Scott and Kelly Anderson met while working for Wendy's International almost two decades ago and have been married for 17 years. Ironically, they both worked in Human Resources, the department typically responsible for employee dating policies. They still work together today.

"At the time the company did have a fraternization policy," Scott tells AOL Jobs. "We actually were not in violation of that policy, because we did not have a direct reporting relationship. But based on our positions, we still felt it necessary to be up front. In our current company we ask the same of our employees."

The couple even wrote a book about their experiences and success in the fast food industry, 'Flip-N-Burgers."'

Kelly says their situation has its unique challenges.

"Most couples come home after a day of stress at work and vent to each other. They provide empathy, understanding and advice," she says. "In our situation that is just not possible. We are so tired of talking, confronting and challenging each other during the day, that we don't want to have more conversation at night. We are better off limiting conversation and giving each other space during the week."

When work relationships fail

Relationships fail all the time. But when they fail at work, it's a big deal. Your life is impacted not just in the hours outside of work, but eight or more extra hours too. You're potentially the subject of gossip and sideways looks, not to mention the awkward moments of passing the ex in the hall.

For former advertising copywriter Caryn Starr-Gates, the only solution to her two-year relationship with a superior that tanked was to jump ship and leave Atlanta for New York. The relationship was a secret at first, but co-workers figured it out.

"When we were having a fight or disagreement or negativity in the relationship, he brought it to the workplace for sure," says Caryn. "Very unpleasant. But most of the time we worked well together."

Caryn didn't swear off work relationships after this situation. In fact, she got married, switched industries, and had an affair with someone at work in food service. She learned the trade so well that her new career took off. The relationship didn't.

"I think it's crazy NOT to expect work romances to happen" she says. "In fact, people do spend quite a lot of time together in the workplace and often become quite close as friends."

Make love at work better

Mary Hladio, is president of EmberCarriers, a human resources and leadership consulting company. She says many companies encourage co-worker friendships. As for deeper relationships, she suggests companies manage them, rather than ban them outright, especially with small companies.

"Many workers there have overlapping responsibilities and frequently interact. Love affairs are quickly noticed and co-workers are especially sensitive to favoritism, whispered confidences, and tensions and hostilities, all of which may affect morale and even performance."

Hladio suggests companies:

  • Take an offensive approach; companies should provide advance training on dealing with workplace relationships
  • Encourage openness about the relationship
  • Discourage displays of affection in the workplace
  • Prepare a written Policy

Overall, workplace relationships should not be banned, she says.

"Employees may view it as an affront to their privacy and out of touch with workplace realities," says Hladio.

Next: AOL Jobs' Special: Love at Work

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