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Office Romance Heats Up in Canada


Much like the sizzling temperatures of the season, office romance is heating up Canadian workplaces. According to the results of Randstad's latest Global Workmonitor, surveying employees in 32 countries around the world, the majority of Canadian employees support the idea of an office romance.

In Canada, seven out of ten employees (59%) indicate a romantic relationship between colleagues occurs from time to time within their organization. Two thirds (66%) believe this need not be problematic.

Stacy Parker, Executive Vice President of Marketing for Randstad Canada says, like it or not, office romances happen. “People spend a significant amount of time in the office and it is often a place where people feel a sense of community. The company is likely filled with people who share the same values, principles, work ethic, skills, and education. So it’s not that surprising that romances tend to spark between employees,” she says.

The results are similar around the world. On average 57 per cent of global respondents indicate romantic relationships occur in the workplace from time to time. The data indicates this happens more often in China, India and Malaysia (all around 70%). In Japan (33%) and Luxembourg (36%) however, romantic relationships in the workplace are reportedly less common.

Parker recognizes that there are risks that are associated with office romance. “Many employers frown on office relationships for good reason. It can disrupt productivity not only for those in the relationship, but those who work with the couple. It can also hurt morale if favoritism between the couple is perceived, or if the relationship ends very badly,” she says.

In Canada, however, only 37 per cent believe a romantic relationship with a colleague interferes with their performance at work. On a global average, 40 per cent of employees share that view. The concern is much higher for employees in India (63%) and Luxembourg (65%) when it comes to the belief that romantic relationships interfere with work performance.

Globally, 72 per cent of respondents believe romantic relationships in the workplace do not need to be problematic. Scores are especially high in Spain, Mexico and Hong Kong (around 81%). While in Luxembourg, romantic relationships in the workplace are not favoured (42%).

The results also found that when a romantic relationship does occur, up to (44%) of global respondents believe one of the two must be transferred to another department. Canadian employees hold a similar stance as 42 per cent believe that in the event of a romantic relationship at work, one of the two must be transferred to another department.

The consensus is however, is that resignation is a step too far when it comes to office romance. Globally, only 24 per cent feel that one of the two should resign from their job when romantically involved. While in Canada, 21 per cent believe that one of the two should resign in the event of a romantic relationship at work. This score is even lower in Hungary, Sweden and the Netherlands (around 11%).

Parker advises, before getting involved in a romantic relationship with a colleague, to find out if your company has any regulations on office dating. “Many companies are open to the idea but your company could have a no office romance policy. If you don’t have an office policy against it and you do decide to go ahead and date your co-worker, keep it out of the office. This means no public displays of affection – keep it as professional and low key as possible. It’s also a good idea to never date someone you supervise or who supervises you,” she says.

“An office romance can be a very rewarding relationship as long as you go into it with the right mindset and the best intentions. Set clear expectations early for the sake of your work environment and your career in case it doesn’t work out,” says Parker. “Always keep in mind that how you conduct your relationship and how you end it will speak to your professionalism and your reputation.”



I concur with this finding. It is how I perceive the marketplace to be in its current attitude towards romantic relationships in the workplace. In fact, teachers are known to have the highest rate of same occupation marriages. (The Smart Canadian’s Guide to Building Wealth) However, I am of the opinion that workplace relationships in the long run cause too much stress and will in some way or another impact employee performance and ultimately workplace integrity. Socially, we have not matured enough to allow dual role plays of human relationship within the same contextual circle of human interaction. For example, I am the boss (female) who fires you (male), but I am your one and only lover tonight that loves you even if you lose your job. I think that this notion is still most repulsive to most couples. 
Allow me to indulge myself with a few comments: 
1) I am strongly opposed to the idea of corporations having a say in whether or not office relationships are allowed. It smacks in the face of adult freedom of choice and association. Governments (from a legal perspective) nor corporations must never be allowed to dictate human romantic relationships, sexual or otherwise. Perhaps, what is fair is that corporations are allowed to outline codes of conduct during on-duty hours for such situations. This would be true for both heterosexual and homosexual workplace relationships. 
2) Relationships that develop within a chain of command environment, in other words romantic relations that are beyond the realm of peer to peer involvement, regardless of the gender, become an immediate conflict of interest. This is an ethical concern for corporations and one that cannot be taken lightly. In the event of a corporate life event, such as performance review, promotion eligibility, disciplinary action, increased work output demands, to name a few; such events stand a huge risk of impropriety in handling by all concerned. The stakes are high and this threat to workplace integrity cannot be ignored. The waters become even more murky when romantic entanglements develop across departmental or divisional lines and where there is no direct chain of command involvement, but indirect authority and control is implied. To categorically disallow such relationship speaks of a corporation that is completely bankrupt in its management capabilities. This is akin to parents who physically spank their children to guide them into acceptable social norms of behavior because it is easy and they are in a state of parental bankruptcy, having no other idea how to teach their children. Thus they resort to such acts of violence. Moving employees to other departments, transferring offending employees to other divisions, disciplinary action, firing, paying off, indiscriminate lay offs, poor performance reviews, missed pay raises, underhand workplace aggravation, and a host of other punitive measures, smacks of corporate managerial bankruptcy and laziness. This is a form toxic workplace violence and is both unsafe and potentially very harmful to those who fall victim to such aggression. 
3) There are exceptions. There will always be exceptions. Relationships in emergency response, law enforcement, and national security environments in all probability require a different rule of law. In a society where the value of adult free choice and association is held in highest regard, it is perhaps assumed that the right to exercise such a choice is to be voluntary surrendered by individuals that take up honorable positions of duty. However, it must be said that while the right is voluntarily surrendered, it can never, and must never be violated by such organizations. The fact that humans interact on varying levels of emotional intensity cannot be ignored. To suppress all occurrences and expressions of such intents of affection, is to push such romances into hiding where they may be revealed under unexpected circumstances of pressure in the line of duty. The consequences of possible poor judgment under such circumstances could be devastating, even costing lives. On the other hand, to allow such relationships to freely develop is to cloud the regiment of training and discipline needed by such professions to function at maximum efficiency. Somewhere in the middle lies a workable solution for a dedicated mature Canadian workforce, while being professional in their conduct at all times, also have the need to reach out to someone else in their circle for human touch and comfort. 
This issue no doubt will be debated as long as there are humans and structured organizations on this planet. Yet somehow we should not lose sight of the fact that one cannot predict where the heart will go. Love comes in unexpected ways, unexpected places, and when one least expects it. Falling in love and falling out of love is part of human living. It tells us that we are normal. Somewhere in the world of mystical romantic entanglement and regimental self-discipline and self-denial lies the answer to a safe, professional work place and the never ending thirst quenching hugs and kisses of a new found love. 
Posted @ Tuesday, July 10, 2012 2:48 PM by Jon
Thank you for the thoughtful commentary! This certainly is, and will continue to be, a widely debated topic!
Posted @ Tuesday, July 10, 2012 3:12 PM by Dayana Fraser
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