Jim Haynes
updated 3/27/2006 1:04:17 PM ET 2006-03-27T18:04:17

Whenever companies have me help their people build stronger relationships for professional success and personal joy, I always share one powerful point that's quite prominent in my book “Never Eat Alone”: Business relationships are personal relationships.

I know this from experience. Some of the best personal friends I've ever had have also been my bosses, colleagues, employees, clients and suppliers. Also, two significant others I had were people I worked with. And according to recent studies, there's a good chance you could say the same.

Four out of ten people recently surveyed by the Society of Human Resource Managers and CareerJournal.com reported that they had dated someone from work. Of the professionals Vault.com polled, 58 percent said they have done the same at some point in their careers. Heck, 43 percent said there's at least one romance going right now in their offices!

At first glance, this might seem surprising, now that countless court cases have made sexual harassment training (what a funny name!) as common as coffee breaks throughout so much of corporate America. And you'd be even more shocked if you considered expert legal opinions like the following by Los Angeles-based lawyer Ray Gallo in the February issue of California Lawyer magazine:

“The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized a broad right of all citizens to engage in private intimate relationships. But … for now, employers can, with relative confidence, continue to regulate office dating and to enforce anti-fraternization policies that have some reasonably direct relationship to their business goals. And employees should think carefully before becoming intimate with a co-worker.”

Despite all the warnings, though, it still seems inevitable that the office will continue to produce romantic relationships. Given how much time, energy and care we devote to our work, there's a good chance that we'll get to know our workmates pretty well. Then, couple the unmistakable monotony of Microsoft Excel with our undeniable human sexual nature, and it only takes a hint of physical attraction to make it more fun to fancy bodies in bedsheets than noses in spreadsheets.

That's not to say that all office romance blossoms as a diversion from work, though. Many times, it's exactly the opposite, and passion for a shared professional purpose is what sparks a new flame.

No romantic relationship starts or survives without passion. Sure, the passion of physical attraction usually abounds in the beginning, but even the intensity in that can't last forever. Both times I was involved with someone from work, it was our shared passion for growing the business and achieving our team's lofty goals that served as the initial foundation for the relationship.

With the common context of work, we derived great joy from sharing our business victories. It also sped the development of emotional intimacy, because we were immediately able to empathize with each other's struggles.

Still, there's much more to making a romantic relationship work than just working together. So even though office romance isn't usually the topic of my relationship tips, here are seven suggestions if you find yourself falling in love during your next lunch break.

© 2012 Forbes.com


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