Office RelationshipsMixing Business and Pleasure

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Office RelationshipsMixing Business and Pleasure

There’s something about industrial staplers, neckties, pencil skirts, and incandescent lighting that makes some people go gaga for their co-workers. In fact, 40 percent of individuals have been in an office relationship at one point or another.

With that in mind, we wanted to learn a little more about the nuances of these workplace romances. Do employees date among their own ranks, or do they fraternize with upper management? Are those involved in cubicle canoodling single, or are they sneaking around on a spouse? Does anyone experience a negative impact on their state of employment? To find out, we surveyed 939 people, of which 482 have been in a sexual relationship in the workplace and 456 have never been in a workplace relationship.

Read on for answers to all these questions and more.

Dating Up, Dating Down

On the whole, women had a tendency to "date up," while men were more likely to engage with someone in a lower position than their own: While a very low number of respondents from both genders went for a direct subordinate or superior, 18 percent of men dated someone at a lower level compared to 6 percent of women.

The grand majority of office romancers dated a co-worker at the same level as their own, at a rate of 78 percent for men and 70 percent for women. Another 21 percent of female respondents reported going for a peer at a higher echelon, compared to 8 percent of men.

Why the discrepancy? In 2017, only 26 CEOs on the S&P 500 – equivalent to 5.2 percent of the list – were women. Using this number as a benchmark, and understanding women do not hold positions of power at the same rate as men, it makes sense more women were found to "date up" than their male counterparts.

Overall, respondents considered their relationships to be more casual than serious in every instance but one: Among the sliver that dated their direct subordinates, a small majority of respondents (53 percent) said they considered their relationships to be serious.

To Cheat or Not to Cheat?

A recent study discovered 20 percent of men and 13 percent of women have had sex with another person while married. But did these figures apply to office romances?

In our survey, the statistics were quite similar between the sexes: The majority of respondents said no cheating was involved in their relationship on the part of either party, as reported by 77 percent of men and 69 percent of women.

On the other hand, 7 percent of women and 6 percent of men admitted to being the cheater of the pair. Women were a little over 1.5 times more likely to be involved in an office couplehood in which the other half cheated.

When the rate of cheating was analyzed based on the level of the employee the respondent dated, the numbers revealed the most likely person to have an affair was the higher-level employee, to the tune of 23 percent. The second-most likely scenario was that both parties were unfaithful within the context of a dating-up relationship.

In lower- and same-level relationships, the rate of either or both parties engaging in infidelity did not surpass 10 percent.

Where Infidelity Reigns

Are some industries more prone to office romance than others? According to our survey, the answer was yes. Thirty-three percent of respondents working in education divulged they had been in a workplace relationship that involved at least one cheating party, followed closely by the finance and insurance industry at 30 percent.

One particular study of over 5,600 women, conducted by a "seeking arrangements" website called Victoria Milan, found the highest volume of female cheaters worked in the financial sector, at 21 percent. Who knew that money changing hands could be such a fire starter?

Manufacturing followed in quick succession at 29 percent, nearly tied with government and public administration at 28 percent. The lowest rung was occupied by respondents in the hotel, food services, and hospitality industry, whose work relationships involved cheating 17 percent of the time.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

There are a lot of good reasons to leave your job: a poor work environment, setting off to further your education, and moving to a new place, for starters.

But for a portion of our respondents, their work relationship spelled the end of their tenure at their current company for one reason or another.

While both genders reported the same incidence of both parties leaving their jobs, as well as their colleague leaving, women were more likely to pack up their things than men (11 percent versus 9 percent, respectively).

Individuals involved in a work romance in which they dated a superior were the most likely to leave their place of business overall, at 13 percent – more than double the rate of any other permutation across all levels. Same-level employees were the least likely to leave the company due to an office relationship overall.

If You Could Do It Over … Would You?

While it’s probably [best not to beat yourself up due to regret](, many of our respondents expressed remorse regarding their workplace romances.

Women felt much more regret than men, with 45 percent of female respondents expressing said sentiment compared to 30 percent of men. Fraternizing with a higher-level colleague left respondents with the heaviest emotional burden, at 47 percent, compared to dating same-level and lower-level peers (35 and 38 percent, respectively).

On the flip side, given these numbers, most people who engaged in office relationships had no bad feelings about it at all. To dive into the most extreme of cases, here are a few accounts from women who cheated on their spouse and have no regrets.

A Means to an End

While this might run contrary to popular assumption, men were over three times as likely to get into bed with a colleague for a promotion, at a rate of 10 percent versus 3 percent for women.

On a global scale, only 3 percent of workplace romancers were in their relationship for the explicit purpose of receiving a pay raise. Aside from financial motivation, there are many more reasons one might choose to sleep with their boss, from the end goal of marriage to workplace revenge.

Workplace Taboo or Regular Romance?

How did people perceive office relationships overall? The majority of respondents of both genders pegged them as acceptable, while women were more likely to view them as unacceptable.

Leave the Romance at the Door

Who says scrubs and shower caps can’t be sexy? Our respondents, apparently: Those in the medical and health care sector viewed workplace relationships as unacceptable more than anyone else, at a rate of 45 percent. With the number of hours clocked by the average health care worker, one might wonder if there are enough hours in the day for one to materialize.

Forty percent of transportation and warehousing professionals also nixed office romances, followed by employees in education at 37 percent – an interesting fact given education was the profession that displayed the highest rate of cheating within work relationships.

Workers in the marketing and advertising industry displayed the potentially laxest attitude about office couplehood, with only 15 percent giving it the thumbs-down. Luckily, there are many other ways to stoke a positive relationship with your boss and colleagues without trifling with a romantic relationship – so if that’s not your cup of tea, you’re not in the doghouse!


The opportunity to kick-start your next relationship can spring up just about anywhere, and sometimes when you least expect it: at a friendly social gathering, bar, or, of course, work. When sparks flew in the workplace, a large number of our respondents’ relationships were forged between employees of the same level, and the majority of people felt most judgmental towards power-imbalanced office couples.

Luckily, the grand majority of workplace lovers were able to remain at their jobs unscathed after their relationship ran its course, with more than half looking back on them with no regret. The most important thing is being happy showing up to work, whether your other half awaits you there.

If you’re in the market for a career shake-up or are curious about what lies beyond your current job, let Simply Hired be your guide. Our advanced search engine feeds you jobs that are tailored to your unique interests and opens you up to our network of over 100 job boards. Plus, a handy salary tool can help you feel confident going into every interview, meeting, and negotiation. Learn more at


We surveyed 482 people who have been in a sexual relationship in the workplace, and 456 people who had never been in workplace relationships using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service. Of those who had been in workplace relationships, 255 respondents were women, and 226 respondents were men. One respondent identified as a gender other than these.

Respondent age breakdowns were:

For the visuals about sleeping with someone for a raise, acceptability of workplace relationships, and acceptability of female and male workers in different scenarios, we surveyed an additional 456 people who had not been in an office relationship before. This group consisted of 299 women, 152 men, and five people who did not identify as male or female.

When asking respondents about the employment level of colleague they dated, they were able to select more than one option. For example, if someone dated a company executive who was also their direct superior, they would select both options. Therefore, answers did not add up to 100 percent.

When referencing regret, respondents were given the following scale: not regretful at all, a little regretful, somewhat regretful, moderately regretful, and very regretful. To simplify the visual, we combined a little regretful, somewhat regretful, moderately regretful, and very regretful to be "regretful."

The visual referencing likelihood to sleep with someone for a raise or promotion was also based on a scale. The scale was as follows: very unlikely, unlikely, somewhat unlikely, neither likely nor unlikely, somewhat likely, likely, and very likely. For our visuals, we combined somewhat likely, likely, and very likely to be just "Likely."

The responses in this survey are self-reported.

For the visuals based on sleeping with someone for a promotion and acceptability of office relationships, the results were weighted to the average amount of people who have been in an office relationship based on the stat that 40 percent of employees have participated in an office relationship, which is from Cupid’s Cubicle: Co-Workers’ Reactions to Workplace Romance Characteristics, by Barratt, Clare L; Nordstrom, Cynthia R, and published in the Journal of Organizational Psychology ; West Palm Beach Vol. 11, Iss. 2, (Dec 2011): 9-23. This stat is consistent with similar surveys that have been conducted.

Due to the entertainment purposes of this study, the results have not been statistically tested and, therefore, should be considered for entertainment only.

Fair Use Statement

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