Sponsored by Oregon Business

Loosening the reins on work romance

| Print |  Email
Friday, February 01, 2008


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.”


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


More Articles

Counterpoint: CLT not as green as people think

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
photo-flickr-glasseyes viewthymbBY GREGG LEWIS | OP-ED

The issue of green-washing remains a significant challenge to those of us who would like to see the building sector in this country do more than make unverifiable claims of sustainability. Transparency about the impacts of a given material is the only way to allow designers to make intelligent choices when selecting building products.


Mayoral musings

Linda Baker
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
091515-mayors-thumbBY LINDA BAKER

The 2016 presidential election is shaping up to be the year of the outsider, with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump capturing leads in the polls and the headlines. In Portland, Wheeler vs. Hales is bucking the outlier trend.


Social media transforming sports business

The Latest
Thursday, September 24, 2015

The traditional model of sports teams using paid media to get their message across is disappearing as teams look instead to social media to interact with fans.


Cutting Edge

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

“There wasn’t a reason shaving with a straight razor should have been taken over by shaving with disposable razors.”


The God complex

Linda Baker
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
093015-zydellren-thumbBY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

The media coverage about Pope Francis must have put me in a Biblical frame of mind. Because after touring the latest phase of the South Waterfront development, a mind boggling 1.5 million square feet of office and retail space that will spring up north of the aerial tram over the next few years, I couldn’t stop thinking about the massive project as a modern day creation story.


Business School

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Training, from the mundane to the sublime, bolsters companies and workers in an uncertain world.


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.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02