Loosening the reins on work romance

| Print |  Email
Friday, February 01, 2008

HeartPencil.jpg

When Halle Reese Smith, a senior writer and project manager at Xerox, started dating one of her co-workers in another state, she tried to keep their relationship on the down low, confiding only in her closest colleagues. She did such a good job over the course of two years, that when Smith eventually asked for vacation time to get married — to the Xerox employee — her boss learned about the inter-office relationship for the first time.

In hindsight, Smith sees the covertness as unnecessary. “I was being overly sensitive,” she says. “I wanted everyone to view us as professional people.” But these days, for a generation less accustomed to compartmentalizing work and personal lives, office romances have stopped serving as fodder for sexual harassment lawsuits and become more of an accepted reality in many workplaces.

“You have a lot in common with your co-workers,” Smith explains. “You’re in the same industry and speak the same lingo. Work can be conducive to building relationships, both friendships and romantic.”

Even so, employees should still approach inter-office romances with a healthy dose of skepticism and caution, says Lisa Kinsley, general manager of human resources at Portland-based McMenamins. While the Northwest pub and hotel chain doesn’t have an anti-fraternization policy on the books, employees are told that job performance should never become compromised by personal relationships, no matter what.

“We’re not going to regulate or create a policy on the birds and the bees,” Kinsley says, “but we’re going to insist that you’re professional. If you can’t be professional and make good decisions in the workplace, you will be held accountable.”

While many companies have relaxed their standards and rarely prohibit certain types of relationships, most still specifically ban supervisor-supervisee dating. Kinsley says that to her knowledge, no McMenamins employees have entered into such a relationship, but she thinks that any supervisor dating a subordinate would be taking a serious risk. Xerox distinctly prohibits supervisors from dating their subordinates, Smith says, but colleagues working at the same level are free to date each other.

These days, Smith faces a new challenge, the result of a successful office romance. Her husband now counts as one of the 2,000 employees in the Wilsonville Xerox office. “It’s almost like we work at two different companies,” she says. “Sometimes we commute separately, with other co-workers, and I won’t see him all day. So it’s not hard to be married to a co-worker.”


LUCY BURNINGHAM


Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

Reader Input: Rx for Health Care

July/August 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

We asked readers how Obamacare has impacted their business.


Read more...

Is there life beyond Reed?

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY GARY THILL | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

A storied institution climbs down from the ivory tower.


Read more...

Flattery with Numbers

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT

The false promise of economic impact statements.


Read more...

The Private 150: From Strength to Strength

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

Revenues in Oregon's private, for profit sector maintained solid growth as the economy continued to rebound.


Read more...

Quake as metaphor

Linda Baker
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
071515-earthquakia-thumbBY LINDA BAKER

The Big One serves as an allegory for Portland, a city that earns plaudits for lifestyle and amenities but whose infrastructure is, literally, crumbling.


Read more...

The 10 most successful crowdfunding campaigns in Oregon

The Latest
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
081915-crowdfundingmainBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

One of the hottest new investment trends has proven quite lucrative for some companies.


Read more...

Ranking the airlines that fly PDX

The Latest
Friday, August 14, 2015
airlinesthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

17 airlines make stops at Portland International Airport, but not all are created equal when it comes to customer service.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS