You've been pulling all-nighters with the new guy in the research department, and thinking about him on the long commute home. The chemistry's good. You're ready to move from fantasy to reality. Hold that thought — there are a few questions you need to answer first. We asked Chareles A. Pierce, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Montana State University whose main area of research is workplace romance, to create a diagnostic tool. Answer the Date-O-Meter's 10 questions and find out how dangerous your liaison will be. How it works: Each of the questions below includes instructions for scoring your answers with either one point (it's OK to ask him out), two points (maybe), or three points (too risky). Add up yuour score: the higher the total, the riskier your relationship. Scoring is based on research identified in th Date-O-Meter Data box below.
1. Are you...
A groundbreaking study by Robert E. Quinn, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of Michigan's School of Business, shows that women who have an in-house romance are more at risk of being terminated than their male partners. It's unfair, but score one point for A and two for B.
2. Are you...
B. Not Married?
The stakes are higher if you're cheating. One study by Lisa A. Mainiero, a professor of management at the Fairfield University School of Business in Fairfield, Connecticut, suggests that people engaged in extramarital affairs run a special risk of being fired. Score three points for answer A and one for B.
3. Is your company...(check all that apply)
A. the largest employer in your town?
B. a big fan of "family values"?
C. offering family-oriented benefits such as flextime or day care?
D. supportive of married couples who work together?
E. tolerant of many dating relationships between employees?
F. currently following a written policy that prohibits sexual relationships between employees?
In a 1991 study, the Society for Human Resource Management found that 92% of its members had no policy regarding love at work. With the vast majority of companies failing to spell out the ground rules, you've got to rely on subtle indicators to determine whether you're risking your assignments — or your job. Score one point each for answers A through E, and three points for F.
4. Is any member of management at your company currently engaged in an office romance?
C. Don't know.
Researchers suggest that in matters of the heart, employees take their cues from management. If managers are doing it, then it may be less risky for you to do it, too — provided it's not with the boss. Add one point for A or C and three points for B.
5. Has your company relocated or terminated an employee who was involved with someone from work?
C. Don't know.
If your company has discouraged dating, then it's plain you're risking a lot if you start something — even if you plan to keep it under wraps. Lisa Mainiero writes that you shouldn't underestimate your coworkers' ability to see through your facade. Score three points for A, one point for B or C.
6. Think about the person you're going to ask out. Check the phrase that best describes that person:
A. Good friend.
B. True love of my life.
C. Incredibly sexy.
D. Someone important for my job advancement.
E. Someone important for my career advancement.
James P. Dillard, director of the Center for Communication Research at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, writes that people who pursue a relationship to get ahead on the job or satisfy their ego are likely to encounter charges of favoritism. Score two points for A or C, one point for B, and three points for D or E.
7. Is the person...(check all that apply):
B. Your assistant?
C. Your peer?
D. Your supervisor?
E. Above you in organizational rank?
F. Below you in organizational rank?
Researchers say that any romantic involvement between a boss and a direct report lowers the morale of other employees. Mainiero surveyed 100 female executives and found that 78% resented hierarchical relationships; just 21% resented peer relationships. Score three points for all answers except C, which gets one point.
8. How interested do you think you would you be if you had met this person outside of work?
Some people are tempted to start a relationship because they want to violate the company's unwritten rule against such affairs. If you're doing it to break a taboo, researchers say you'll lose your coworkers' respect. Score three points for A, two for B, and one point for C through E.
9. What's the most you're willing to sacrifice to have an intimate relationship with this person?
B. A few lunch hours.
C. A promotion.
D. A pay raise.
E. My job.
F. My career.
You never know what a relationship might cost until you're in the midst of it, so it's important to weigh the consequences. Even a fling can have major repercussions. For example, of the 100 female executives Mainiero surveyed, 63% said that their career would be compromised by getting involved with a coworker. Score three for A or B, one for C through F.
10. Do you think this relationship is likely to last?
Researchers warn that when an affair breaks up, sexual harassment may follow especially if the relationship is between a boss and a subordinate. Add one point for A, three points for B.
Understanding your Score
You're playing with fire, Charles Pierce says, if you've scored 25 points or more. There are too many hot situations for you to escape without getting burned. Even if the relationship doesn't get you terminated or divorced, you'll probably be labeled unprofessional by your peers.
A score between 12 and 24 is a yellow light. Proceed with caution. You might be tempted to start something simply because you've got a rebellious streak, but you could easily get more excitement than you bargained for.
You've scored less than 12? Before you start e-mailing love notes, recognize what you're about to do: getting serious with an office-mate will complicate your life.
Coordinates: E-mail questions — or your Date-O-Meter scores with accompanying comments — to Charles Pierce, email@example.com .
- How to Lose Your Heart
- Been There, Done That, Would You Do It Again?
- Out of the Closet, on the Job
- Love & Work: The Unwritten Rules
- All Smoke, No Fire
- What's Your Rating When It Comes to Dating?
A version of this article appeared in the April/May 1996 issue of Fast Company magazine.