Love at work

Desks around the country were adorned with flower arrangements last week, and many of the Valentine's Day sentiments may have come from fellow co-workers. Workplace romance is becoming increasingly common, but few companies have policies to address the issue.

However, human resource professionals and corporate executives aren't especially pleased when Cupid's arrow strikes in the office, according to the results of a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), in conjunction with CareerJournal.com. The results are based on responses from 558 HR professionals and 663 executives.

Most HR representatives and senior managers agree that workplace romances might lead to conflict within the organization. That's perhaps why 76% of HR types and 71% of the executives said workplace romances are something they'd personally avoid.

Respondents' concerns about the challenges and consequences of workplace romances include the following:

* More than half (58%) of executives said that workplace romances should be banned because of the potential for retaliation if the romance ends, while only 12% of HR professionals cited that reason.

* Executives were also more likely to view such romances as unprofessional (58%) and agree that they almost always end in disaster (32%) while only 38% and 24% of HR professionals said the same.

Despite these beliefs, three-quarters of HR professionals and 59% of executives said their organizations had no policy on workplace romance. Of those organizations that do have policies, 64% of HR representatives and 52% of executives said their organizations permitted, but discouraged, romance in the workplace.

"It's natural that when people work together closely romantic feelings sometimes emerge," SHRM President and CEO Helen Drinan says. "That is why organizations need a workplace romance policy to help set guidelines for what is and is not appropriate, and to prepare the organization for challenges that may arise."

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