November 20, 2005


Workplace dating is no longer taboo

A story published today in the Times Leader reports that ideas on dating within the workplace are shifting as offices get more casual and a more relaxed generation enters the work force.

Co-workers have always socialized, of course, but romance is no longer against many policies.

“We went through a period in employment regulations when everyone was advised to include in their employee (handbooks that) dating in the workplace was prohibited,” said Suzanne Layton, president-elect of Human Resources Management Association of Greater Kansas City. “I’m seeing less of that today; perhaps there were less bad situations than they expected.”

Derek Smith, 24, works at Cerner Corp., a large health-care software company in Kansas City that employs many recent college graduates. He said seeing co-workers pair off is common.

“What’s the most common way you meet someone? A friend of a friend,” Smith said. “If all your friends work at Cerner, doesn’t that feed into the cycle?”

Lindsey Henry Moss, a spokeswoman for Cerner, said the company has no specific dating policies. However, supervisors are not allowed to manage significant others or people they are dating, she said, and employees are expected to remain professional.

If in doubt about your workplace policies, check your employee handbook — or ask.

Dating in the workplace has changed — national surveys agree.

As part of a poll commissioned by The Star, Market Data Specialists asked 600 single people in the five-county Kansas City area where they meet people to date. Work tied for second (with bars) as the place where Kansas City singles find their dating partners. The No. 1 way Kansas City singles meet people is through friends, according to the poll.

Nationally, more people are dating within the workplace, according to a survey by Vault Inc., a career information Web site ( In a 2005 survey, 58 percent of employees said they have had an office romance, up from 46 percent in 2003. In the survey, 59 percent also said that if they were a manager, they would do nothing about office romances unless work quality were compromised.

Megan Lewis, 26, said that when she worked at State Street, a financial service provider in Kansas City, many young people dated their co-workers. She thinks it was a result of how career-driven young singles can be.

“They’re working long hours and not meeting anybody else,” she said.

Research from supports her theory. In a survey of more than 1,300 workers, Careerbuilder found that 22 percent of people who have dated at work began dating after working on a project together and 15 percent began dating after working late. Socialization was a factor as well: Thirteen percent of workers said they began dating after happy hour with co-workers.

Adam Laskey, 26, didn’t realize that helping his friend with a new crop of Cerner trainees would lead to marriage. But it was there he met his future wife, Leslie, 26. They became fast friends and were soon a couple. When he began a project in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., she followed. They’ve been married a little more than a year.

Leslie said nothing was awkward while the Laskeys, who both still work at Cerner in Kansas City, were getting to know each other. It doesn’t bother Leslie that they work together because they work in different departments. In fact, she said she likes talking about work at home.

“It allows me to know a different side of the company,” she said.

Is this sort of bliss possible for everyone? Who knows. But the rise of dating in the workplace is a big part of the 20-something generation.

Abby Wilner is the author of “Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties,” published in 2001. The book was instrumental in focusing attention on the “quarterlife crisis,” the period of self-doubt and insecurity many face in their 20s. She also co-wrote a new book published this year, “The Quarterlifer’s Companion,” which gives tips about how to survive the quarterlife crisis.

Young singles are working more, but they’re also changing jobs more often. The awkwardness that previously came with dating your co-worker isn’t there anymore, she said.

“There’s so much job-hopping now that if it does become a sticky situation, someone can move on,” she said.

Not everyone is so casual about dating in the workplace. Small offices are different, said Steve Vockrodt, 23. He’s a reporter for the Dispatch Tribune in Gladstone, Mo., and his office is small, making inter-office dating impossible. But trying to meet someone is equally impossible because so many girls are into dating men from their workplace, he said