Why more people would give office romance a shot in 2023

Bill Ackman, chief executive officer of Pershing Square Capital Management LP, speaks during the WSJ D.Live global technology conference in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. WSJ D.Live conference brings together CEOs, founders, investors, and luminaries to discuss the global technology environment and how to move the industry forward. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Timi*, a 28-year-old Nigerian software engineer, found love in the company he works for. Things were going pretty well based on the experiences he shared with me. However, on the way to making the relationship official, he discovered something that would make him never consider a workplace romance again.

“It could have been a great relationship, but a superior was also interested in the same lady. She chose to date the superior, and it affected my relationship with the superior and the lady,” he recalls.

If anything, Timi confirmed that he wasn’t breaking any company rules, but he wasn’t sure if the superior was.

Due to the potential problems it could cause, Timi started searching for other job opportunities so he could leave the company. However, he admitted that he wouldn’t recommend a workplace relationship, given the sensitivity of the situation and the potential for things to go wrong.

Finding love at work 

Love can be found anywhere, even in unexpected places. However, workplace relationships are often frowned upon. From my research, people only believe in them if it has worked for them or if they have seen them work for others. 

In 1994, Samuel* married his heartthrob, who was also his co-worker at a state ministry.

“We had a large workforce at the time, so our employer didn’t mind. Nowadays, with more companies having smaller workforces, workplace relationships have a greater chance of affecting work,” he said.

Samuel emphasised that workplace relationships are not inherently wrong, but it’s important to consider ethical and legal considerations and seek guidance from HR if there are concerns.

“When we started dating,” a Nigerian tech talent who has had a successful relationship with a co-worker shares, “my only worry was to know if I wasn’t violating any sexual harassment code.”

She didn’t think it would affect either of their jobs. The hardest part for her was making the relationship public, but she praised the company for not having a policy that would result in losing an asset like her because of a personal decision.

Global companies like World Bank Group, Google, and Facebook, which make their employment policies public, do not disallow workplace relationships but have exemptions to prevent friction.

For example, the World Bank Group prohibits spouses from working in the same department/division/unit or having a reporting relationship. Google expects early disclosure of any romantic or sexual relationships between co-workers to HR to avoid conflicts of interest and prohibits any direct or indirect reporting relationships.