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Barack and Michelle Obama, who met at a Chicago law firm in 1989 when he was a summer associate and she was his supervisor, are certainly not alone. Thirty-eight percent of workers said in a new survey by CareerBuilder.com that they had dated a co-worker at least once during their working lives. A competing survey by career website Vault.com, says that a much higher number, 56% of business professionals, have had office romances.
I am biased toward the higher number, since I met my own husband at work. I was a reporter in the New York bureau of a PBS news show while he was doing graphic design for the local station, WNET. We weren’t exactly colleagues, but we went to work in the same building every day. We met in the elevator, in fact. The other data that skews my perception: Forbes has spawned quite a number of romances, including the late, great editor of the magazine, James Michaels, and his wife, Jean Briggs.
Of those who dated at work, CareerBuilder found that, like the Obamas, nearly one third, 31%, said their office romances wound up leading to marriage. That statistic prompted us to reflect on work relationships that led to power couplings. Hence our accompanying slide show.
Harris Poll conducted the survey online for CareerBuilder in November 2013, querying 3,000 full-time workers who were not self-employed. Vault ran its survey in January and got responses from 1,900 people.
CareerBuilder also asked about dating across responsibility levels. Twenty-four percent of those who had dated a colleague said they went out with someone above them on the company ladder, including the boss. (Only 3% of those who have had an office relationship said they thought it had helped them move ahead in their career.)
The CareerBuilder survey also ran tallies for different industries. Not surprisingly, hospitality had the most people who said they had dated a colleague (57%), followed by utilities (51%), information technology (46%) and transportation (42%). In financial services, 38% said they had dated a co-worker, followed by retail, manufacturing, healthcare and business services.
How do office romances begin? Some 12% said that they ran into other outside work or at a happy hour (11%). Late nights at work scored 10%, having lunch together, also 10%. The most romantic statistic: 9% said they were struck by love at first sight.
The majority of workers said they were open about their relationships, while 39% said they kept their relationships secret.
The Vault survey offers one spicy statistic that makes me wonder about whether the respondents were telling the truth. Some 32% said they had had a “tryst” in the office. That seems quite high to me, and begs the question of what is meant by tryst. Three percent said they had been caught in the act.
The Vault survey also reveals that most people who have had office romances would do it again, with 70% of men saying they would be interested and 62% of women saying they would pursue another workplace relationship.