It’s not uncommon to hear about people meeting their other halves at work. Picture:
There’s something dangerous and sexy about striking up a relationship at work, because what happens if it goes wrong? Should you go for it? asks Marchelle Abrahams.

The Silicon Valley internet giant started instituting a dating policy stating that employees can only ask a colleague out once, and if rejected, can’t ask them again.

Facebook’s global head of employment law told The Wall Street Journal that in cases where someone does say yes to a date, workers don’t need to notify HR, but they have to notify them if there is a conflict of interest.

Another company with a potentially large dating pool is Google. They first implemented their formal dating policy in 2004, stating: “If a romantic relationship does create an actual or apparent conflict, it may require changes to work arrangements or even the termination of employment of either or both individuals involved”.

This got us thinking about dating policies in South African companies: Do they exist and do employees abide by them?

What happens if things go sour? Worst-case scenario, either party could find themselves on the receiving end of a sexual harassment accusation or lawsuit.

HR practitioner Lizelle Josias says that currently South African labour law has no policy referring to workplace dating.

“It’s up to individual companies to implement their own policies and how they manage it,” she adds.

However, she does say that when it comes to sexual harassment and consensual relationships at work, the lines are blurred; “That’s why companies have to clearly define what sexual harassment means”.

Workplace policies aside, it’s not uncommon to hear about people meeting their other halves at work. It’s only logical that you would feel a strong attraction to someone with whom you spend most of the day.

Not even Glenn Close’s bunny boiling antics in Fatal Attraction or Demi Moore’s “management style” in Disclosure served as a cautionary tale for these couples who dived head first into office romances.

Facebook’s dating policy states that employees can ask a colleague out only once, and if rejected, can’t ask them again. Picture: Pexels

Secret lovers

Dan* met his wife of 10 years while both were working for the same company in the engineering sector. “I was in a senior position, so we kept it a secret because it wasn’t allowed at work.

“Eventually we decided that it was best that she resign,” he recalls.

“That was the best bonus I ever received at work. The worst was having to keep quiet while our male colleagues perved over her.”

A relationship of convenience

Kevin* met his ex-boyfriend in 2001. They were working for the same IT company, and because of their awkward working hours, he found himself drawn to Jason.

“I wasn’t interested in him at all at first,” he admits.

“It was a relationship of convenience because there was no time to have a normal, functioning relationship outside of work.”

They kept their year-long romance a secret, not because of the complexities of being in a same-sex relationship, but because of the fact that they worked closely together, fearing a conflict of interest.

“It’s all-consuming to date someone you work with because you spend day and night together,” comments Kevin, who realised this only once the relationship had run its course.

What the expert says

Fiona Dorse, aka the Dating Guru, is all for romance blooming at work.

“I met my second husband at work, so go for it,” says the owner of the dating agency Corporate Dating.

“It’s a wonderful way to meet somebody, and initially you have something in common, which is work.”

Dorse does add that dating in the workplace should be approached with caution: “Always conduct the relationship with dignity.

“First impressions count - don’t just pounce, and don’t make an idiot of yourself,” she concludes.

* Not their real names.