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Office romances are affairs to avoid

Rob Enderle | July 27, 2015
In-office affairs may seem like an exciting idea, but really they are more likely to be career-enders. Columnist Rob Enderle is speaking from experience when he tells you the risk is NOT worth the reward.

bad office romance ts

Most of us have heard the warning: "Don't date anyone you work with." If you've been in the workplace for a while you have likely either been in an office romance, had someone that worked for you get into one or watched a co-worker destroyed by one.

I made the mistake of dating where I worked twice before getting married, and while I survived the first I almost didn't survive the second. I have seen a lot of top executives destroyed by in-work affairs, often with one or both parties married to someone else, damaging whole families as a result.

So I'll take this moment to share a few stories, including my own, in the hope you can learn from the experiences of others.

In-office affairs: Risk vs. reward
My tale
The first time I heard the "pen and ink" saying was from one of my friends' fathers, who was a CEO. We had driven coast to coast on motorcycles and were working in his plant to help defer expenses. I was in my late teens. There was a very attractive woman working with us and my friend's father clearly had more confidence in our ability to attract women than we did. He explained that dating her would be a really bad idea and, of course, being young all we heard was that it was in the realm of possibility. I often wonder if part of the reason so many people that should know better do this is because he forbidden fruit warning actually makes an affair more attractive.

Years later at an employee offsite while I was still single I got to talking to the attractive head of HR who, coincidently, was moved to the office next to mine and, although it was against policy, I started dating her. It seemed fun, I'd send her flowers in the office signed "from an anonymous admirer" and then quiz her in public on who it could possibly be. Keeping it secret held a certain appeal at first, until I found out she was also dating someone in services and still living with her ex-husband. Stuff I should have known but hadn't bothered to find out about because I was too caught up in the fun and excitement.

When it came apart I had to change jobs and divisions to avoid what otherwise might have been a catastrophe. The risk wasn't worth the reward.

My story is pretty milk toast against some others, here are some real terror tales.

Large tech vendor
One of the ugliest stories was about the mistress of the CEO of a large technology vendor who was also having an affair with the married senior vice president being groomed for the CEO spot. Their affair became public when a phone conversation they were having somehow got pumped through the firm's PA system (supposedly this was accidental but I have my doubts) and the vice president's plan to prematurely replace the CEO was broadcast to the entire company. The CEO was not amused and fired the vice president on the spot, then he called the guy's wife so that when the vice president got home all of his stuff had been dumped on the lawn and he was locked out of his house.


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