Barack and Michelle Obama, who met at a Chicago law firm in 1989 when he was a summer associate and she was his supervisor, are certainly not alone. Thirty-eight percent of workers said in a new survey by CareerBuilder.com that they had dated a co-worker at least once during their working lives.
If anything, I believe that number is too low. A competing website, Vault.com, ran an office romance survey for seven years, which came up with higher numbers for office coupling. Last year, it found that 59 percent of respondents had dated a colleague at least once during their career. (Vault didn’t run its survey this year.)
I am probably biased toward the higher number, since I met my own husband at work. I was a reporter in the New York bureau of a PBS news show, while he was doing graphic design for the local station, WNET. We weren’t exactly colleagues, but we went to work in the same building every day. We met in the elevator, in fact. The other data that skews my perception: Forbes has spawned quite a number of romances, including the late, great editor of the magazine, James Michaels, and his wife, Jean Briggs.
Of those who dated at work, CareerBuilder found that, like the Obamas, 31 percent said their office romances wound up leading to marriage. That statistic prompted us to reflect on work relationships that led to power couplings. Hence our accompanying slide show.
Harris Interactive conducted the survey online for CareerBuilder, polling 7,780 full-time workers who were neither self-employed nor worked for the government. The survey ran from Nov. 9 – Dec. 5, 2011. (Vault’s sample was smaller, just 2,083.)
CareerBuilder also asked about dating across responsibility levels. Twenty-eight percent of those who had dated a colleague said they went out with someone above them on the company ladder and 18 percent said they had dated their boss. Women were more likely than men to date someone above their level: 35 percent of women said they had, while only 24 percent of men did.
The survey also ran tallies for different industries. Hospitality had the most people who said they had dated a colleague, at 45 percent. Financial services came next, at 45 percent, transportation and utilities, 43 percent, information technology, 40 percent, and health care, 38 percent.
Another question: did what someone does for a living influence whether you would date that person? Twenty-six percent said yes. Only 5 percent said they broke up with someone because of their job.
CareerBuilder also asked about where romantic relationships began. Among the answers: running into each other outside work: 13 percent, happy hours: 12 percent, lunches: 11 percent, late nights at work: 10 percent.
The majority of workers said they were open about their relationships, while 37 percent said they kept their involvement secret.
One other enticing statistic: 7 percent of those polled said there was currently someone at the office they would like to date.