New Delhi: A 30-year-old product specialist from Bangalore noticed a team member kept making excuses to speak to him, from clarification of tasks at hand to workplace advice. Simple queries turned into long, intense phone conversations—and they soon became more than just colleagues.
Their office-mates, of course, noticed the “special” treatment he accorded her.
The heightened state of romance in the workplace was inevitable, of course. With a younger workforce and longer hours, office affairs have become more commonplace —and just because someone is married doesn’t mean he or she is off limits.
In fact, a third of working executives in India see no harm in romancing married colleagues, according to a survey of romance in the workplace conducted by global research firm Synovate for TeamLease Services Pvt. Ltd, a staffing company. The survey is based on responses from 402 workers—70% of them men and 30% women—across all levels at the top 500 companies in India.
Experts say today’s careers— long hours, teamwork, frequent travel—create more opportunity and temptation than ever. “Romance at workplace is inevitable since employees today spend a major part of their waking hours at workplace rather than their homes,” says Kishore Poduri, the head of human resources, eClerx Services Ltd, a data analytics and customized process solutions provider.
A majority of respondents (59%) said women are equal partners in office romances and even initiate affairs in a number of instances.
“Change in attitudes and demographics has facilitated greater degree of intimacy and boldness compared to the baby-boomer workforce,” observes Surabhi Mathur, general manager for permanent staffing at Teamlease.
In response, some companies are enacting policies to prohibit lovebirds from reporting to one another, or even being on the same team. For example, eClerx does not place related employees in a supervisor-subordinate role to avoid any appearance or reality of favouritism. But Poduri also says that eClerx is fairly open about office romances and the management never intervenes as long as it does not impact work or create biases.
“Understanding the changing view of romance in India’s new world of work is emerging as a complex challenge for companies,” says Mathur. “This involves ethical, moral and productivity issues that need to be nuanced for context, cohort and values.”
The survey also reveals that employees see getting involved with bosses as the quickest way to a salary increase or promotion.
Curiously, a majority of those polled (56%) feels organizations should not interfere in a romantic involvement, while an equal number believes there is a negative impact on productivity due to romantic affairs.
The product specialist from Bangalore, for example, also had to face the implication from colleagues that he was not focusing on his work like before. “It was so untrue and unfair. I was working as hard as ever,” he says. “In fact, I would make conscious efforts to see to it that she and I were not seen alone during breaks.”
Eventually, he switched jobs. And the girlfriend?
She became his wife in December 2006—and also changed her employer.