The Stages of Office Relationships

Posted by Andy Dunscombe on Feb 13, 2015 10:00:00 AM

OfficeRomance2With Valentine's Day upon us, love is in the air and that lil' rascal Cupid is up to his old tricks. His quiver is stocked and his bow notched, and he's ready to go to work. And when I say work, I mean, your work. Your workplace.

I asked around to a couple of hiring managers I know, including Kimberly, a Promotions Manager at a local Orlando radio station, and Laura, a manager in the beauty supply industry. The general consensus was that inter-office relationships are just a bad idea. 

Then I asked my friend Ian, who was formerly a Director of Operations for a financial counseling organization, for a few thoughts on the subject. Ian, who I think may be gunning for my job writing these blogs, disregarded my request for a "few words" and gave me the below essay, which I absolutely adore and will share with you here. Ian echoes the above sentiments and goes on to describe the three stages of an inter-office relationship and includes extremely scientific data to gauge the impact on the work output.

The Stages of Office Relationships

Intra-office dating is a lot like watching two people run an obstacle course that was built on an active minefield. It sounds like it could be fun until someone makes a misstep and rains down unbelievable life-changing horrors on everyone around them. Maybe that’s a small bit of hyperbole, and maybe I am a bit of a cynic, but I have seen this play out time and time again so I can say the glass is half empty because it is. It has been my experience that dating within an office environment or business organization never ends well. Here are the stages of office relationships and the correlating impact on work output.

Stage 1) Pre-Courting
This is perhaps the stage that is somewhat beneficial to the company. In the beginning, the couple in question enjoys all the fun and excitement of a new relationship. Together they strive to spend more time with one another in an environment that is easily explainable. Initially this can benefit the company because it means longer work shifts and more time in the shared office space with a small chance of those extra hours going toward work. 
Potential work output change: +14%

Stage 2) The Relationship
Gone are the days of your employee lovebirds coveting their shared time in the office space. Now is the winter of your workload discontent. The assuredly glowing couple (whether secretly hiding the relationship or openly reveling in it) will be trying to get out of the office as soon as possible to “enjoy’ the new relationship. This will likely have a negative impact on work output for both of them but you should stay positive for now, because at least it isn't Stage 3 yet. 
Potential work output change: -18%

Stage 3) The Inevitable Demise 
Here it is, the part you knew was coming. Something went wrong in paradise and now you have two employees that can’t stand each other, which is great for you because you need them to work as a team and nothing motivates a team like unspoken yet deafening tension. Expect work to grind to a halt and most interactions between the two of them to take place against a backdrop of disdain and resentment. Hopefully there is no side taking with the other employees and a greater wedge being driven. 
Potential work output change: -35% 

That was terrific and I thank Ian for his contribution. As an employer you want to create an environment where people feel happy and comfortable and are able to complete their work effectively. More often than not, relationships between employees have an expiration date and depending on their level of professionalism and how intertwined their lives have become, the buildup and the deconstruction can impact their work quality and output. From my perspective, it’s less cumbersome and problematic if your employees date outside the business.

For some ideas on policies to deal with dating within your office, you can check out this great article from

Happy Valentines Day!

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