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The Cupid Effect: Love in the Office

15 Feb

So begs the question: To hide or to be free?

In the old days, most couples would choose the former. An office romance would be often frowned upon among both peers and the management – and in extreme cases, they may affect careers. That line is not so defined these days. 

In a survey reported by, 80% out of 415 participants said they approve of office romance. However, 75% of those who have had relationships in the office admitted they had kept it to themselves. The poll was taken among 315 employees and 100 employers. 

Reporting on an earlier survey, AsiaOne News said 49% of men were against office romance even though more men (44%) were more willing to initiate an office relationship. Both genders said they were open to dating their peers and men are more averse to dating their bosses. More women (75.8%) said they would not date a subordinate. The survey studied 2,281 respondents.

The law of attraction

Singapore has retained its number one position for having the longest working hours in the world for a while now, according to a report by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). As such, finding love in the workplace is bound to be a natural phenomenon.

“We spend a lot of time at work so office romance is something you cannot prevent. What can be prevented is the lack of accountability and transparency. Companies must have clear policies on office relationships. It allows subordinates or peers to be transparent about their relationships as well as assure other colleagues that it will not stand for favouritism or cronyism,” said ScienTec Consulting’s CEO Karen Tok. 

“For that to work, we need to be more than just a colleague or manager. For example, managers who are intimate with their subordinates or colleagues will be able to provide a listening ear in the event of a lovers’ tiff,” Ms Tok added. 

Keeping it professional

For Business Development Manager Trina Chua and Executive Search Consultant Stefan Olsem, their romance blossomed outside the workplace but chose to work together at ScienTec Consulting.

“When I got to know about the opportunity, I was not worried that it would affect our relationship. We work in different teams and have different roles so it is easier for us to maintain professionalism,” said Mr Olsem.

“We are both focused on what we need to do and simply discuss private matters in our free time. There’s a time and place for everything,”
he added.

“We have an intimate understanding of each other’s work situations, especially if one of us have to work late or is feeling stressed. This has allowed us to be more aware and patient towards each other,” said Ms Chua.

In the case of Recruitment Consultants Shirley Koh and Isaac Tan, they started out as colleagues before becoming an item.

“We had initial concerns about being open about our relationship, but we decided to make it known to everyone as a commitment to each other to make things work,” said Ms Koh.

“We’ve had our fair share of disagreements at work. Fortunately, we have been able to separate work issues from our personal relationship, with some guidance from our manager,”
added Ms Koh.

For couples ready to take the plunge, Ms Chua offers her advice: “Communicate with each other about the future of your relationship and how you want it to progress. If it is a serious commitment, there should be no reason to hide it. If any party wishes to keep the relationship under wraps, the couple should address the concerns and align expectations. Mutual understanding and respect is key.”

Putting policies in place to govern office relationships

How should companies handle romantic relationships in the workplace that have gone sour? ScienTec Consulting’s Head of Business Cecilia Sim suggests companies have clearly worded policies in their handbook regarding office relationships.

“All companies should have a professional code of conduct that all employees need to adhere to. Colleagues and managers must be transparent about their actions, which should not bear any conflict of interest,” said Ms Sim.

“As with any misconduct practice, managers should refer to the stipulated code of conduct and handle such situations objectively. Romance or not, employees must behave in a professional manner towards one another. And that includes not giving the cold shoulder, refusing to cooperate for the betterment of the company and putting colleagues in the middle of a bitter war,” added Ms Sim.

While office romance cannot be prevented, companies can make the most of it by managing it well.

“Office romance may not be a stigma and I feel there isn’t a need to hide it. Employees who operate based on knowing they have the support to do well in both their personal and professional lives, can be more engaged and have a stronger sense of belonging to the company,” said Ms Tok.