The state of office romances (2020 Study)

October 21, 2020
The state of office romances

It’s common knowledge that workplace lovers aren’t few and far between. That said, mixing work and romance is a tricky business: there’s the good, the bad, and there’s the ugly.

Career experts at Zety surveyed 1,000 Americans to find out who dates whom, what happens when peers find out, how serious office flings get, and if fooling around with workmates is worth the sweat.

Below are a few highlights from the study:

  • A full 58 percent of Americans admit to having dated coworkers, while 89 percent felt attracted to one. 
  • A little over 30 percent of survey takers formed a long-term, romantic relationship at work.
  • A whopping 75 percent of Americans who dated a coworker tried to keep their relationship a secret from others. In 82 percent of the cases, their colleagues eventually found out.

The driving force behind office romances

According to Zety’s findings, a full 89 percent of Americans have, at some point, felt attracted to a coworker.


It’s actually quite straightforward. An average workplace typically employs workers of similar age, professional interests, and those that come from similar backgrounds. On top of that, most employees are likely to be in close proximity to one another, sharing common office space, which dramatically propels the chances of finding someone you might like.

It’s also worth noting that employees that work in small companies (e.g., startups) are generally more likely to date a coworker. That could be because such small businesses are usually engaged in cross-departmental cooperation, which makes it easy to meet different people across teams.

Why it’s hard to keep things under wraps

As mentioned earlier, a full 75 percent of Americans who dated a coworker tried to keep their relationship a secret from other colleagues.


More often than not, the cat was out of the bag eventually. In fact, in as many as 82 percent of the cases, peers and management eventually found out.

What surprised us the most was that the bigger the organization, the more difficult it is to hide office romances from others. Perhaps it’s because, at larger businesses, there are simply more people that might’ve seen or heard something through the grapevine.

Who dates whom?

While you might think that most romantic interactions in the workplace happen between peers (which is true for 57 percent of employees), there are some exceptions:

  • 24 percent dated a subordinate
  • 11 percent dated their boss
  • 8 percent dated a higher-up but not a direct manager.

What’s also noteworthy is that males are more likely than women to date subordinates. In fact, 27 percent of the male respondents vs. 18 percent of females said their fling was with someone their junior. That being said, both men and women are reluctant to date their direct managers.

But—what’s striking is that women tend to date higher-ups from outside their team much more eagerly than men. As many as 14 percent of women vs. 5 percent of men chose people senior to them as their office sweethearts.

About the author

Max Woolf is a career expert at Zety. He’s passionate about helping people land their dream jobs through expert career industry coverage. In his spare time, Max enjoys biking and traveling to European countries. You can hit him up on LinkedIn.

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