Mailbag: Love at work

My newsletter about attitudes towards romance in the workplace ignited passionate responses from several readers. Some say managers should mind their own business about what employees do in their personal lives, while others have watched the fallout from workplace relationships that ended badly.

Windows NT/2000 specialist Tom Ozminkowski says, "Executives and HR seem to think that the company is more important than the individual. I firmly believe my priorities are and should be: Children, Marriage, Self, Job...If these people had THEIR priorities straight, they'd realize that a job is just how we make our money, but it's NOT (or shouldn't be) what either defines us as individuals or rules our private lives."

Charles McNamara from Sydney, Australia, says, "What are the thought police going to try and control next? Why does there HAVE to be a workplace policy on everything to do with a worker's personal habits, from romance, to personal e-mails/phone calls, after-hours drinking/recreational drugs, etc? Next thing you know we will be blacking out the windows in our buildings, as was done during the Industrial Revolution in Europe, because it was thought the sunlight and thoughts of the outside world would distract the factory workers. All this succeeded in doing was making the workers even more miserable and depressed."

He suggests, "Surely common sense, and whether people are actually getting the job done in a timely and effective manner, should really be the guiding factors within the workplace."

Indeed, the larger problem may be the ensuing ugliness that sometimes occurs when a relationship between colleagues goes sour. "Guy had an affair on his fiance at our over 300-employee workplace and she found out. She hit the corporate e-mail with all kinds of dirt on him and quit. He was quickly squeezed out of the system shortly thereafter," recounts John from Atlanta.

"While there might have been 100 office romances going on, the one that makes the corporate e-mail wrecks it for everyone REALLY fast."

Scott Cranston writes, "No doubt at all, I have seen at least one at-work romance which, after the breakup, created some tension and awkwardness in the department. However, as our productivity-obsessed workforce approaches the magical 168-hour workweek, this may be the only place for one to find a mate."

Ozminkowski adds, "I've only been peripherally involved with a co-worker in the past. Our relationship did NOT affect our work, nor did our breakup. We parted as friends and went on with our lives and our jobs."

"I've seen the best and worse of office romances, and have never felt that the company suffered disproportionately from them. Maybe I'm just a romantic at heart," he says.

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