Learn about the “psychological factors” that make many fall in love with their colleagues

Work is a perfect ground for romantic relationships and there are good reasons why we often fall in love with our colleagues, both personally and virtually.

Sending an emoji with the eye to a colleague is definitely less exciting than exchanging a shy look at the coffee machine.

However, although the transient interactions that fueled romantic relationships in the workplace became impossible during the coronavirus blockade, colleagues were finding different ways to find each other – even without love desks or dating tables.

Data from the American Society for Human Resource Management for February 2022 suggests that workplace romance may have grown with employees staying home.

One-third of the 550 Americans surveyed said they started or maintained a relationship with a colleague during the pandemic – a six percent increase from the days before the 2019 pandemic outbreak.

Even during the global pandemic, workers have found a way to keep up with meeting colleagues – a fact that underscores the inevitability of romance in the workplace, which is fertile ground for love, although many companies condemn meeting peers as a nightmare for human resources department. .

Experts say there are specific reasons why workers have not stopped communicating with colleagues – even when isolated during a global health crisis.

A tale as old as time

Although considered somewhat taboo, 75 percent of respondents to an American Human Resources Management Association survey said they had no problem with their peers meeting each other. (After all, half of them said they fell in love with a colleague at one point.)

While romantic relationships between co-workers in the workplace are a headache for many companies, they have existed for decades – if not centuries.

“Even in the industrial age, there was still some discussion about people being attracted to each other in the workplace,” says Amy Nicole Baker, a professor at New Haven University in the US who studies workplace romance and organizational psychology. .

As early as the 19th century, there was a rage and rejection of romantic relationships in the early days of managerial work, as men and women in offices committed “nameless behaviors,” according to critics of the time.

But many lovers meet at work and it does not necessarily end in scandal (rather, it could lead to an end to the tale, as happened with former US President Barack Obama and his wife, who met at a law firm in Chicago when they were in their twenties).

2017 data show that up to one in 10 heterosexual couples in the United States say they have met at work.

This makes sense, given that some data show that 20-50-year-olds in the US spend nearly four times as much time with their peers as with their friends.

The romance between colleagues still thrives completely outside the office and some psychological prejudices still push us towards distant colleagues.

“It is not surprising that many people care about their colleagues, as work takes us more and more time over many years,” says Vanessa Bones, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University in the United States. which studies the dynamics of romance. in the workplace.

And while the most common methods of meeting colleagues are changing – more people are meeting online now, for example, and fewer people are meeting through family friends – finding love at work is statistically “consistent”, says Baker.

This has been a constant during the pandemic, a time when communicating with colleagues can be less dangerous because you are out of sight of your boss or teammates.

(Some colleagues even work secretly from each other’s homes while working remotely.)

“As long as people interact together in a collaborative environment, you see the underlying mechanisms of human attraction occur – be it physical or virtual,” says Becker.

And the psychological factors behind these mechanisms inevitably continue to push colleagues into something more, even during an epidemic.

Familiarity and familiarity

The workplace is central to two of the key drivers of attractiveness development, says Amy Gordon, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan in the United States who studies relationship psychology.

Spending a lot of time with someone in an environment like the workplace “is very likely to create the scene for romance, because of all the factors we know that contribute to romance: habit and intimacy.”

First, the more a person sees something (or someone), the more likely they are to like it.

This habit is a psychological prejudice called the “simple effect of exposure.” Gordon says just seeing someone often can lead to an attraction for them.

Similarly, research on romance in the workplace has shown that being around someone for a long time can help favor that person; The more often we see someone who is physically close, the more we interact with him and the faster the attraction between people. (This bias can also apply to bosses who see employees for longer periods.)

But this prejudice is by no means limited to physical proximity. “It’s also an emotional and intellectual closeness,” Becker says.

Whether via email, Zoom or Slack, it means you are still “interacting with each other,” Baker says. This exposure and interaction still increases preference, regardless of physical location – which may explain why romance continues between colleagues in the era of distance work.

Another factor beyond the physical presence of colleagues in the workplace is the preference of people for like-minded people – which can extend to work, as colleagues choose the same profession and company.

“If you are a lawyer or both are trained in the same way, or if you both think about the world in the same way, this similarity will also increase admiration and understanding,” says Becker.

This chemistry can be improved when people treat a problem together, as research has long shown that stressful situations can create social bonds.

But the same phenomenon applies “absolutely” in the workplace, says Baker, who adds: “Think about all the stresses that are common in the workplace. You have crises coming up: he could be a bad boss,

It can be work logistics, long working hours and intensive work. ”

Psychologists and human resource experts agree that romance between colleagues is inevitable and should be managed intelligently and not prevented.

It’s inevitable, so what now?

And while romance in the workplace is virtually inevitable – and widely accepted – it is still complex.

First, joining colleagues can increase the risk of allegations of sexual harassment and reporting on hostile work environments, as well as create a conflict of interest.

Most often, romance between colleagues in the workplace can make the rest of the staff uncomfortable, which ultimately affects performance.

And observers of these romantic relationships may be concerned, because you are moving from very clear standards in the workplace to acceptable behavior.

“Once someone on staff has a two-way relationship – not just a co-worker – it changes the criteria in an inappropriate way,” says Ponce, who adds, “You no longer know what is appropriate.”

And since workplace romance will not go away, some experts say intelligent companies will allow employees to meet, making sure they do not cross professional lines.

“Managing this, rather than claiming it does not exist – or should not – is the best way to do it,” says Johnny C. Taylor, CEO of the American Association for Human Resource Management.

Taylor believes that mandatory disclosure of this romantic relationship – at least for HR and the employee line manager – is the answer (and many companies have so-called “love contracts” that require employees to do just that).

If you enter into a romantic relationship at work, experts encourage you to think about your motivations and weigh the pros and cons.

Most importantly, if you are involved in a relationship with a superior or subordinate, experts urge you to report the matter to HR immediately and request that a supervisor be reappointed.

But if you are dating an associate on the same level, a situation that most people find less dangerous or problematic than meeting someone on another level, then it is up to you to tell someone other than HR.

You just have to know that the rest of the staff “will find out,” says Taylor.

Becker notes that the longer a person waits to discover his romance, the more others “began to feel that something was hidden” and “react negatively.”

They may review their past interactions with you and your co-worker, review any comments made by each person, suddenly suspect why you both went on a business trip or if you are sharing other resources and information that the rest of the staff does not take.

Despite these rules and potentially dangerous situations, romantic relationships in the workplace will never end.

With all the psychological factors involved, it’s hard to blame colleagues for falling in love with each other. However, it is important that workers understand the implications.

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