Men and women do now work together in every conceivable setting, from office to factory floor to cops walking the beat. One deplorable result of this increased co-existence has been the rise in sexual harassment, which women have suffered in all sorts of occupations and workplace settings. Most companies now have policies in place to combat harassment, and they investigate specific allegations. You might think that all the attention paid to this problem would put a damper on even consensual romantic involvements that start at work. Not so says Dennis M. Powers, author of The Office Romance: Playing with Fire Without Getting Burned. In this thorough and common-sense look at office romance, Powers writes: It is basic that opposite sexes attract naturally and they've been doing this since history was recorded. The office romance is here to stay, and businesses must accept this fact in a positive way. Powers, a lawyer who also holds an MBA from Harvard University, cites some stunning statistics on the prevalence of workplace romance. He says studies show 25% to 33% of respondents say they at one time or another were in an office romance. Half those romances wind up in marriage or a long-term relationship. Besides the fact of male-female attraction, Powers says office romances so frequently flourish because working side by side lets people with often similar interests get to know each other over a long period of time. Compare working in the same division as someone for a year to a blind date. Also, more people are putting in a tremendous number of hours on the job, leaving them little time to socialize anywhere but the office.
Powers tackles the office romance from every conceivable angle. Indeed, he sometimes gets repetitive. He discusses the legal definitions of sexual harassment, the impact of office romances on co-workers, what happens when such romances break up, instances of adultery, and much more in clear, non-judgmental language. He peppers the book with short, specific vignettes to bring life to the text.
Neal Lipschutz is managing editor of Dow Jones News Service.