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Workers ‘too scared’ to act on office crushes

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  • The office romance could be an endangered species after new research found that people just don’t think it’s worth acting on their crushes – and not for the reason you’d think.
  • Out of 1,600 British workers 93% said that they have had a crush on another worker at some stage in their careers; However, only 15% said they had actually acted on that crush.
  • 62% stated they were worried about harassment laws when acting on their crush.

A workplace survey by a British employment law consultancy found that the vast majority were too scared to start an office romance just in case they fell foul of harassment policies and lost their job. According to the Protecting.co.uk law firm, British workplaces are filled with aspiring Romeos and Juliets, but the great tragedy here is that they’re simply too worried that their clumsy approaches might be misconstrued, with disastrous results. “This is probably the saddest survey we’ve ever done,” says Protecting.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “And it’s yet another proof – if it were needed – that the course of true love never does run smooth.”

According to a telephone survey involving over 1,600 British workers: 93% said that they have had a crush on another worker at some stage in their careers; However, only 15% said they had actually acted on that crush; Asked why they had not declared their love for another person in the workplace, respondents told us (more than one answer was given in many cases): 

  • 62% worried about harassment laws
  • 46% too shy to ask
  • 31% thought the other person would reject them
  • 22% were aware that the other person was already in a relationship
  • 18% thought a workplace “scandal” could affect their promotion prospects
  • 16% didn’t want to mix work and romance
  • 11% workplace has ‘no relationships’ policy
  • 4% didn’t feel comfortable asking the boss or an employee out 

The largely unfounded fear of harassment law was by far and away the most-heard reason, and Protecting.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall says that it doesn’t have to be that way. “People shouldn’t be afraid to have a normal conversation with a colleague, and that includes building up the courage to ask for a date,” he says. That’s reflected in the tales of woe that we heard from workers too scared to act on impulse in case they fall foul of some non-existent rule about asking people out the “wrong” way: One glum employee told us: “I’ve been working with her for six years and I couldn’t bring myself to ask her out because I was worried that she might react badly. Now she’s engaged and it broke my heart” Another said: “I’ve got a reputation as a bit of a party girl, so I daren’t ask anyone out at work in case they think I’m a troublemaker. I don’t want to mess on my doorstep, as they say” Steve of London told us: “I’m gay, and I daren’t find out if my crush is too. I don’t even know how to start finding out without coming across – you know – a bit stalky.”

Unfortunately, scare stories in the media involving particularly lurid episodes make people think there’s a national crackdown on approaching an intended romantic partner. As Hall explains: “The vast majority of harassment cases are built up over a period of time and involve long periods of improper behaviour. Nobody gets taken to a court or tribunal for complementing somebody on their hair or their shoes.” If you’re in love, Hall says, just ask. The very worst outcome is that they’ll say “no” and you’ll be crushed forever and you won’t be able to look them in the eye over the photocopier ever again. But at least you’re not going to get sacked over it, he says.

But even if you do succeed in contacting your workplace crush, one jaded boss had a word or two of warning: “I’ve no objection to workplace romances,” Mike of Hampshire told us. “I just warn them that I met my first wife in the office, and it took us 21 years to get divorced. That tends to put things into perspective.” Protecting.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall wants to encourage workers not to be shy about their workplace crushes. After all, love makes the world go round. “And if we could turn all the unrequited love in British workplaces into electricity, we could probably heat every office, shop and factory in the country forever,” he says.

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