Case Study: An Office Romance Gone Wrong . One lesson is that office relationships can have career consequences. . in someone who wasn't as invested in her, and failing to think through the consequences of that playing out at the office. I recalled instances where several intra-company couples were so discrete, An intra-office romance/marriage need not be all negatives. PDF | p>Much of the research on workplace romance has been conducted in the United States, and the When asked about workplace rules and policies, the participants wavered between expressing Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education .. The relationship develops naturally, although in my case.
This is particularly true of the EAP, which is relevant in providing a platform offering mediation as a conflict-resolution strategy. There is thus a need for more contextual research in South Africa. The research aim was not associated primarily with the EAP field per se, a "gap" that shows clearly in the assessment of the literature.
The question or "gap" of the applicability of the findings on professional employees' WRs and WRs in the context of a factory set-up is apparent. The consequence of this is that, firstly, the real effect of dissolved romances on the psychosocial functioning and productivity of the employees involved is not sufficiently defined and understood.
Secondly, the negative effects of dissolved WRs might be underestimated. Thirdly, the EAP guidelines are too general for dealing with this situation and are therefore eventually experienced as inadequate.
This would be potentially valuable to the management of the organisation, not only in calculating their potential losses, but also in motivating the prospects of a well-established managerial intervention strategy for WR.
It can be concluded, therefore that, although there is substantial existing research on WRs in the EAP field, further and more up-to-date research is required if it is to be applicable in the South African context, hence this contribution. Normally, referrals to the EAP of employees involved in romantic relationships at work are made by the team leaders at the point when the relationship breaks down, in the hope that the associated conflict and tension causing productivity problems will be addressed.
There is thus a need for a timely and effective strategy for the EAP practitioner to respond to these situations, so that the affected employees can return to full productivity as soon as possible. By conducting research on these aspects of employees' wellbeing and on the impact on the organisation's productivity, this study endeavours to contribute to organisational development. In other words, insight into the effects of dissolved romances on the psychosocial functioning and productivity of the employees involved would empower an organisation management, supervisors, team leaders and EAP practitioners to address the phenomenon of WRs more effectively.
In addition, the principal researcher has been professionally involved in EAPs sinceand has observed how many dissolved workplace romances have had a disruptive effect on the workplace. To develop an in depth understanding of the effect of dissolved workplace romances on the psychosocial functioning and productivity of the employees involved.
In order to achieve the research goal, the following objectives were set: This study was conducted in an industrial setting, a clothing factory in Cape Town, with approximately 1 production workers. The employees who formed the focus of the research are in the lower-income bracket and have low levels of formal education. The population is predominantly female, with approximately male employees, ensuring a regular occurrence of romantic interaction in the workplace.
Interviews were conducted with a sample of 11 individuals of the wider population in the closed EAP caseload who were selected to participate in the study. Data saturation was taken into consideration in the process of interviewing participants.
The selection was carried out by the non-probability sampling method of purposive sampling. The criteria for inclusion were that: Data were collected by means of a semi-structured interviewing method by means of an interview guide with some predetermined questions.
Working Lives: Office romance | Money | The Guardian
The interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed afterwards. Copies of the transcripts were given to the participants before the data were analysed and integrated into the findings to allow for the participants to approve of the content and confirm that they were correctly quoted and understood.
The interviews were not conducted by the researcher herself but by a suitably qualified person registered social worker, bound by the standard code of ethics and regulations around confidentiality contracted solely for this purpose. The advantage of this arrangement was that enhanced objectivity was ensured by the interviewer, which contributed to the trustworthiness of data collected.
The research findings that resulted from the process of data collection and analysis are outlined below.
Why office romance can be such a tricky business - The Globe and Mail
Participants' job titles varied between clerk, machinist, ironer, cutter and packer. Their mother tongue was Afrikaans and their education levels varied between Grade 6 and Grade 11 refer Table 1.
The length or duration of the romantic workplace relationships varied. The shortest relationship was at least six months one participantand the longest relationship was 15 years two participants. Six participants were married to their partner and eight of the participants had one child or more with their partner in question.
Nine out of the 11 participants co-habited at some point in the relationship, ranging in duration between a minimum four months and maximum 15 years. The 11 participants included two ex-couples, meaning four of them were involved with each other and the rest were involved with other employees outside the sampling group. It may be deduced from the information above that the participants' relationship profile therefore fitted the criterion of being in a serious long-term relationship rather than in a short-term affair.
Ten of the participants responded that they perceived the break-up as being inimical, with only one participant saying it had been amicable. Furthermore, of the total of nine relationships, six had broken up because of a third female party, who was also a work colleague. Most of the male parties in the relationships actually proceeded to enter into another workplace relationship after the break-up this needs to be viewed in the context where the workforce of 1 consists mainly of females with only about males.
Presentation of the themes and literature control An elaboration of the themes that emerged during the study follows below.
Psycho-social functioning The theme of the effects of dissolved WRs on the psychosocial functioning of the employees involved and their co-workers was explored in the interviews with participants. Emotional problems, such as concentration difficulties, stress and depression, lack of motivation and increased substance abuse, can occur with the dissolution of any romantic relationship.
However, as indicated in the literature review, it is different for WR break-ups, in that the participants have to work together after the romance is over. This continued contact often worsens the emotional impact. Emotional disorders are usually not as visible as physical ailments and could create secondary risks for the organisation, such as increased absenteeism, mistakes or increased health costs. In this regard participants reported a decrease in their concentration levels, as their attention was more focused on the relationship instead of on their work; they felt easily distracted and struggled to concentrate on their work.
Five participants answered that they experienced difficulty with decision-making. For example, J reported: I could not make decisions at work. I remember one incident when I became sick at work because I was too emotional and had to be sent home.
Ek kan onthou een 'incident' by die werk, wat ek siek geraak het by die werk en net begin te 'emotional' raak het, dat hulle my moes huis toe gestuur het" [sic] SA: I could not concentrate on my work. My supervisor recognised this. Die supervisor het opgelet In terms of the negative experience of stress, the research indicated that most participants reported increased levels of stress during the break-up.
The "stress" related to different factors, i. It is significant that the majority of the participants felt so stressed that they considered resigning from their jobs. Also, when it came to sadness, seven participants answered affirmatively to the question as to whether they experienced this feeling during and after the break-up. Seven participants indicated that, for them, the experience was so intense that it bordered on depression, in that some lost interest in their personal hygiene and appearance.
Others experienced decreased energy levels or had trouble sleeping. I was very depressed. It felt as if nobody cared about me and that happiness was not meant for me. That I was meant to be alone. Dit het vir my gevoel laat niemand vir my omgee nie. Dat geluk nie vir my beskore is nie Ek het verskriklik baie gehuil. The same can be said of substance-use during the break-up. Eight participants responded that they had increased their use of substances, which confirms the negative impact of the dissolution of the WR on their psychosocial functioning.
For example, L says that, although she used to drink over weekends, she suddenly started to drink during the week as well, as she could not care less about her situation: I stopped worrying about what others at work thought of me, they could say what they liked about me at work. Regarding levels of self-confidence, the research reflects the fact that, during and immediately after the break-up, the participants experienced a blow to their self-confidence.
However, looking at the impact over the longer term, 6 participants reported feeling relieved that the relationship was over particularly if it had been unhappywith increased levels of confidence in general.
This finding is demonstrated well by participant L: I felt very insecure about myself and wondered what was wrong with me. He really crushed my self-esteem. But when we broke up, my life began. Wat is dan fout met my? Hy het regtig my selfvertroue geknak, regtig waar It can therefore be deduced that WR dissolutions can impact negatively on participants' levels of self-esteem in the beginning stages, when emotions run high, but the longer-term impact on psychosocial functioning actually looks positive.
The researcher deliberately asked the question "What was the most difficult experience during the break-up? Some participants answered affirmatively, indicating that it had been particularly hard to see each other every day.
Five participants answered that the most difficult experience was the negative effect on the children, as demonstrated, for example, by: I was sad for my child because now he would grow up without his father.
Nou gaan hy ook groot word sonder sy pa". The hardest part was that now I will see my daughter much less often than I would like. Another main trend emerged as the majority of the participants' relationships six out of the nine sampled had, in fact, broken up because of the intrusion of a third female party, also a work colleague, on site. This had complicated the break-ups to the extent that the participants experienced double the exposure and humiliation, because not only the break-up, but also the establishment of a new WR for the male party occurred in the public domain.
For example, D said: He had another girl at work, and everybody was talking about it because he had made her pregnant. This is significant in the sense that it possibly indicates that the particular work environment of the clothing factory in question is a "hot" environment: Furthermore, most of the employees reside in the same residential communities and often socialise at home.
This finding reflects the theory of Mano and Gabrielwho found that the development of WRs depends a lot on the "organisational climate", and that WRs are more likely to emerge in "hot" climates, where work arrangements foster contact outside work and where organisational policies do not punish participants in WR which is also relevant to this specific environment.
Proposing the existence of a "hot climate" in this instance makes further sense, considering the demographic composition of the employees. The majority 1 of the 1 employees are female, and the majority of them are single or divorced. It would appear, therefore, that for male employees there are ample opportunities for multiple WRs simply by virtue of the sheer availability of females.
A conclusion on the first group of questions concerning the theme "Psychosocial functioning" is neither clear-cut nor consistent. Different participants had different and unique emotional experiences, and the impact on their functioning varied from time to time and from individual to individual. However, on the whole, and looking at the responses concerning this theme in general, the findings of the literature review are confirmed, in that the general psychological and emotional functioning of individuals involved in WRs is negatively affected.
In general, the break-ups resulted in decreased concentration levels and decreased decision-making abilities, increased stress, sadness and depression levels, and an increased use of substances, as well as, at least immediately after the break-up, decreased self-confidence levels. Social functioning In this research study the matter of risks of a social nature was investigated under the theme of social functioning, with indicators of social coping, withdrawal behaviour, the experience of office gossip, conflict with colleagues, and communication with colleagues.
Looking at the various responses to the question of how the participants coped socially during and after the break-up, it appears that most of them had some difficulty with this. A sense of isolation and decreased levels of socialising emerged and was a general experience among the participants. A clear trend emerged from the participants' responses to the question: They also reported withdrawal behaviour at work, for example, avoiding colleagues during breaks.
Everyday during lunch times and tea times, I went outside, and then I would come in. I was on my own.
The end of the affair
Op my eie was ek". Office gossip was a common experience for the participants. Two of them reported that they were unaffected by the gossip, while the rest 9experienced it rather negatively. It created a sense of humiliation, sadness, tension or lack of comfort in the working atmosphere. The participants' perceptions of the workplace were therefore negatively affected by their experience of the gossip, to the extent that they developed a resistance to going to work and needed to withdraw, as described above.
It upset me terribly and made me felt uncomfortable. I felt I did not want to work here any more. Dit het gevoel ek wil nie meer hier werk nie". T felt uncomfortable because: They were saying I was mad, crazy. Another trend in the participants' experience was that of increased levels of conflict with their work colleagues.
Feelings such as irritability, anger, impatience, quarrelsomeness, rudeness and unfriendliness were reported. All of these feelings are conflict-related and had, or were likely to have, a negative impact on their level of social functioning at work.
In summary, appreciating the different and often conflicting experiences by participants regarding the theme of social functioning, it can be inferred that the break-up of a WR generally had a negative effect.Is Office Romance good or bad? (Dating & Relationship advice) - Personality Development Video
The participants' social coping skills were affected in some way or another, and most of them experienced withdrawal. Office gossip was an enormous issue for them, and increased conflict with work colleagues was reported.
Retaliatory violence With reference to the theme of retaliatory violence, there is consensus in the literature that disruptive dissolutions of WR have a potentially high risk for an organisation in the sense that the dissolution could result in retaliatory violence on the work premises, affecting the participants' and their co-workers' job performances Lickey et al.
This may get worse when one of the parties feels vindictive, angry or resentful. This research investigated the occurrence of retaliatory violence and the associated negative feelings under the indicators of violent threats, acts or incidents; effects of violent threats or acts; negative emotional experience fear or intimidation ; and experiencing feelings like anger or resentment. The occurrence of violent threats, acts or incidents at work following the break-ups was a definitive theme.
Four female participants shared that they approached their ex-partners at work in an intimidating or verbally violent manner. I was the one who approached him to tell him off. When we broke up, I went up to him to swear and shout at him, everyday.
Once, I took his phone and wanted to break it, but my friends stopped me. Ek wou dit stukkend gooi, maar toe keer my vrinne my ". One said that she physically hit her ex-partner at his machine. Yes, I did slap him once, at the machine. Another incident was more serious, when a woman was physically and verbally assaulted by her ex-partner at her work desk. The participants who had been on the receiving end of such violent threats or acts responded that they usually reacted by avoiding or walking away from their ex-partner.
Some 2 felt embarrassed about it, some 2 felt uncomfortable, but the majority 7 struggled with feelings of anger and resentment against their ex-partners. I would get angry for no reason, with my supervisor as well. Ek was sommer net kwaad, sommer vir my supervisor ook". When somebody asked me something, I would bite their head off for no reason because I was irritable and misinterpreted everything.
Vat dit mos nou verkeerd op". These negative emotional experiences sometimes resulted in malicious intent towards those around them; for example, participants experienced increased levels of irritability with their colleagues or supervisors. Financial disagreements between ex-partners in particular were one of the primary reasons for this negativity. This confirms the suggestion in the literature review that retaliatory violence counts as a major potential risk to the organisation when WRs dissolve.
This finding is significant and points out the irony that the organisation prohibits family members or partners of employees from entering the grounds because it has been identified as a safety risk. However, there are no policies or measures in place that consider the risks of employee family members or partners who are working together and who pose a similar potential risk to each other's safety. Productivity implications With reference to the theme of the productivity of the employees involved and their co-workers in the industrial clothing factory in Cape Town, the study indicated mixed results regarding participants' responses as to whether or not the break-up had any impact on their usual level of work functioning.
Half of the participants answered that it had had a negative impact, while the other half answered that it had had no impact whatsoever.
Why office romance can be such a tricky business
One answered that she actually worked harder to compensate for the lack of trust her colleagues had in her. With regard to the question of how the break-ups affected their attendance, all the participants shared that their attendance had been negatively affected, ranging from being absent for a few days up to a week or more. They usually listed it as "sick leave" and said they took the leave either because of their need to withdraw temporarily from the workplace, or to attend court cases resulting from the break-up.
I was frequently absent, I just felt anxious with lots of things running through my mind.
Then I just needed to take time off work and be alone at home. En dan moet jy net afvat en alleen wees by die huis ". The last productivity indictor to be investigated was the way in which the participants perceived the level of motivation and commitment to their work. A main theme was the negative impact of the experience, and they gave examples of how hard it had been for them to continue as normal during that time.
I did not do my work as I usually did. I just did not want to be there. I could not put in my usual effort and my work wasn't up to scratch. Daar was net nie Gee nie 'capacity' wat ek moet nie. My werk was nie dieselfde gewees nie".
Having children to look after was the main reason why participants were motivated to carry on doing their work. Even though I didn't want to go to work, I had no choice because of our child. It is clear that WR break-ups do potentially have a negative effect on productivity. Necessity and best strategies for an EAP The theme of participants' perceptions about the necessity and best strategies for an EAP in dealing with the effects of dissolved WRs were also explored. In view of the described risks to the individuals involved, as well as to the organisation as a whole, it is imperative for the company to respond proactively to avoid further escalation and further costs.
These relationships are as inevitable as the temptations that cause them — and so are the rumours, lost productivity, negative publicity and — knowing how employers dread human rights lawsuits — even attempts at extortion. I get my fair share of calls each year from both women and men who believe that I can turn the mere presence of a sexual relationship even the shortest kind with a senior employee into a six-figure settlement. I invariably tell them that there is nothing illegal about dating at work.
But employers and executives have reputations to protect, which is why both should tread carefully with promiscuous habits towards dating work colleagues. Considering the potential for both real and threatened liability that workplace relationships can set off, many employers no longer turn a blind eye and have decided to monitor them very closely, or in some cases outlaw them altogether, especially where one employee reports to the other.
In a recent case, a Kitchener, Ont. In this case, the workplace policy was not challenged as unreasonable, and the court tacitly confirmed the long-standing principle that employers have the right to govern their workplaces as they see fit, even as it relates to policies against dating.
Therefore, employers do have a right to be in employees' bedrooms when their behaviour or sexual gymnastics follow them back to their desk. Story continues below advertisement Story continues below advertisement Not all workplace relationships are evil or immoral, and there are many genuine and happy relationships spawned by a workplace dalliance.
However, to avoid the potential for negative consequences, I recommend that both employers and employees at least pause before ignoring the risks and consider the following advice: It includes conduct outside of work, including the Internet and social media. Often, it is not the mere fact of being in a relationship at work that is a disciplinary matter; it is the failure to follow any policies on disclosure or conflicts of interest. Managers, directors or other key employees in a position of influence may have a duty to voluntarily disclose personal relationships at work even in the absence of a formal policy.
Employers should consider annual training or education on the modern interpretation of harassment at work. This is the cost of prevention.