A ‘how-to’ for office romances and breakups

In the movie "The Proposal," a hard-edged editor at a New York publishing company (Sandra Bullock), who is about to be deported to Canada, forces her assistant (Ryan Reynolds) to marry her so she can remain in the country. (Courtesy of Eurotv.us)
Characters Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan and Frank Burns have an affair in the TV show "M*A*S*H." When Houlihan breaks off their relationship, Burns suffers a nervous breakdown. (Courtesy of Sowhateverhappenedto.com)
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt play a married couple who discovers they are both assassins trying to kill each other in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." In an added twist, the two actors fell in love while working on the film - their own real-life workplace romance. (Courtesy of Eurotv.us)
S410600_15.tif In the movie "Broadcast News," network news producer Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) falls in love with reporter Tom Grunick (William Hurt), while correspondent Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks) is in love with Jane. (Courtesy of Cynicritics.com)
Catherine Zeta-Jones plays a master chef in a NYC restaurant who falls for the new sous-chef in the movie "No Reservations." (Courtesy of Eurotv.us)
Cybill Shepherd plays an ex-model who runs a private detective agency with Bruce Willis's character, a snarky detective, in the movie "Moonlighting." (Courtesy of Scoutnetworkblog.com)
In the movie "Two Weeks Notice," Sandra Bullock plays an attorney who falls in love with her client, the wealthy head of a corporation, played by Hugh Grant. (Courtesy of Eurotv.us)

WASHINGTON – Office romances are nothing new — many of us may have learned our lesson, while some are glad they took a job that introduced them to their spouse.

But if a couple realizes they are headed for splitsville, there is a right and wrong way to handle an office breakup.

The scenario has played out in countless movie and television plots as two co-workers fall for each other. It’s not only a common plot line, it’s common in real life. So are office breakups.

While it may be nearly impossible to avoid that awkward period after the romance fades, here are some suggestions to make the transition back to co-workers a pleasant one, courtesy of The Arizona Republic.

  1. Gain perspective: Find an outlet outside of work to express your feelings so you don’t have a meltdown at work.
  2. Move on: Make a conscious effort to revise how you think about your ex, letting go feelings of resentment, anger and vengeance to see the relationship in a more positive light. “Don’t try to shun them or try to go out of your way to treat them differently just because you had a former romance,” says Kevin Tucker, career coach at C-Cubed Career Consulting & Coaching.
  3. Be mature: Focus on work and find a way to put aside the differences you have with your ex. Tucker says focusing on the duties at hand will help the former couple reach a civil level of communication.
  4. Adhere to company policies: Most workplaces have policies when it comes to office relationships. Make sure to conduct yourself in a professional manner so your boss doesn’t have to get involved.

While many assume office romances are not a good idea, a Workplace Options study shows more workers believe there are positive aspects to finding love at work. This view is especially common among Millennials, or those who range from age 18 to their early 30s.

Of the group surveyed, 84 percent of Millennials said they would have a romantic relationship with a co-worker, 71 percent said workplace romances can boost performance and morale and 40 percent said they would have no problem dating a supervisor.

For managers in charge of employees in a relationship, there are things to consider that include legal consequences, according to the article:

  • Determine the nature of the relationship: Co-worker relationships can create problems in the workplace and create bigger problems down the road.
  • Check your company policy: Be sure the relationship is not in clear violation of company rules. If there is no official policy, address only clear cases of preferential or destructive treatment.
  • Remain impartial: Consensual workplace romances are not illegal, regardless of your company policy. If one party in an office romance wants to transfer to a different job or department after a breakup, do your best to meet the request.
  • Consider the legal consequences: If one party in an office relationship is receiving preferential treatment or if acrimony between the two parties is affecting the workplace, you need to take action. Failure to address preferential treatment can lead to lawsuits against a company, and bad blood between an ex-couple can lead to a hostile workplace lawsuit.
  • Mediate first: Rely on conflict management first when a soured relationship affects the workplace. The key is action. Too many employers turn a blind eye to office romances and act only when the lawsuit is in the works.

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty and Heather Brady contributed to this report. Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up