Recent workplace assaults put stress on office relationships


Finding love in the workplace has become a bit of a challenge in recent months.
Photo courtesy WOTV4Women

By Kristian Thomas
Outlook Writer

Countless couples could testify about the benefits of an office romance and the longevity of their relationship.
Such is becoming more unlikely these days, though. Especially with the recent outrage over disclosure of abuse of power in the workplace. Most cases haven’t stemmed from the casual conversation at the water cooler or in the break room.

However, folks who might be interested in each other have become skittish about initiating any kind of conversation that might lead to a relationship.

Sometimes office romance works. Sometimes it doesn’t, as in the case of Tessa Smith.

“I would advise people to really be careful who you deal with at work,” said Smith, who for most of three years with the same company saw her relationship fall on the rocks. “I don’t think I’ll be dating a co-worker again.”

Lately people who want to try finding their soulmates in the workplace are finding it to be a challenge worse than a bad relationship. They tend to back away because of the complications brought on by the rising number of harassment cases reported in the workplace.

From Harvey Weinstein to Bill Cosby, those cases have empowered the ‘Me Too’ and ‘Times Up’ movements. While it’s mostly women who are driving those movements, men also have been standing up against high-ranking supervisor’s attempts to force a relationship with their subordinates.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, eight percent of women are raped in the workplace. Some victims also reported prior assaults.

But while the high-profile cases are making people reconsider dating a co-worker, the practice isn’t totally going away, said Jeremiah Carter, a single state worker.

“We are grown adults at my place of employment and we mind our business in that sense,” Carter said. “Yes, there are attractive people that we all work alongside but they are not to be preyed upon. If you like someone discuss it in a professional way; and dear lord, keep your hands to yourself.”

Some people have used the right tact, though. Take Julia Retzer, for example, who found a husband in the workplace.
“I was training him so there was no intimidation,” she said. “When we started dating and even now into our marriage we leave our work at work and we leave our personal lives out the door so we can effectively do our jobs.”

While women might have an easier time finding love in the workplace, men are generally more reluctant. Especially because of the recent cases that have resulted in criminal charges.

Clay Johnson, who found a wife in a coworker after two years of working together, understands the pressure that comes with approaching a female on the job.

“Nowadays it’s complicated because you don’t want being nice to be seen as being inappropriate,” he said, offering some advice. “Don’t over compliment and don’t pursue in the workplace. Make that a social matter and not professional.”

The success of Johnson and his wife, Beverly, is proof that attempting an office romance doesn’t have to be a hopeless quest – if it is well intended.

“I am truly saddened that this does happen but I am sure that there are many people in cubicles and breakrooms that truly have the love Clay and I share,” she said. “It’s not unusual to fall in love with your coworker.”