Workplace romance – Yea or Nay? Plus, The American Apparel decree

American Apparel’s recent ban on workplace romance might make a compelling argument whether the ban actually makes sense, lacks logicality or is simply despotic!

Workplace romances are not uncommon and I am a testament to this fact since I have many friends and ex-colleagues who met their soulmates at work. There is no specific study and research that proves actual statistics of workplace romances as most of them get noticed but not reported. However, there is factual evidence available that workplace romance does flourish in most cases as people work in close proximity to each other, have plenty of time to know a co-worker better (both laterally and at a subordinate level), develop a genuine attraction and find a future mate/spouse.

It’s all hunky dory when two consensual single adults at workplace find succor in each other’s arms and find love – true, long-term or temporary. The end result could be a sure shot positive dose of dealing with work related stress and in turn greater productivity and harmony all around. However, all hell breaks loose when a budding work romance turns out to be just a quick fling (“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” – applies to men equally) or it’s a blooming romance between two married co-workers (not spouses) or worst – still a romance between boss and a subordinate.

In most cases office romance gone sour results in a whole lot of collateral damage at workplace. Officiating a decree of sorts to ban workplace romance might not really help minimize that but it does help establishing a protocol and a moral code of conduct at workplace for employees at all levels.

In all fairness, a ban of this sort could result in diminishing personal conflicts that could potentially become professional for instance sexual harassment cases – which could drop significantly in my opinion. Workplace ethics could get a major boost like not taking biased decisions, or yielding special privileges for the object of one’s affection/love interest at the workplace.

On the contrary, a ban of this nature could augment more opportunities for organizations to become overtly authoritative and meddle in personal affairs of employees in the guise of enforcing corporate cultural values- thereby triggering serious implications in maintaining a healthy working relationship between colleagues who might have trust issues in building genuine workplace friendships and social support system at work (which are essentially very important for an employee’s ability to succeed). Also, having a ban might question the very credibility of being and acting like a responsible adult and the right to one’s privacy, yes, even at work!

There is not much of a study on workplace romances as much there is on sexual misconduct and harassment and there is some definite research and laws in place for the latter.

We live in a progressive world thankfully, and many employers permit coworkers dating, spouses working together but is American Apparel’s ban actually a step back or a step forward? It will be good to research as to what kind of an impact does workplace romance have over organizational dynamics and whether legislation or a ban will end up helping or discriminating?

– Amit Anand


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