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Blowing the Door Off Office Romances

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Blowing the Door Off Office Romances


Blowing the Door Off Office Romances

Blowing the Door Off Office Romances

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz is under fire for favoring a World Bank employee, who is also his girlfriend. A heated love triangle at NASA led to an astronaut driving for hours wearing diapers. And Wal-Mart investigators hung out outside a bedroom door trying to bust executives who were allegedly having an affair. What's going on with love in the workplace?


This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.


And I'm Alex Cohen.

In a few minutes, remembering U.S. military crews who manned World War II bombers on a mission to bomb Tokyo in the days after Pearl Harbor.

Mr. DICK COLE (Doolittle Raid survivor): Two day out to sea, PA system says, now here this, now here this, this force is bound for Tokyo. There was a lot of jubilation and so forth. After reality set in, why things got kind of quiet.

COHEN: Survivors of the Doolittle Raid get back to one of their planes 65 years later.

BRAND: First to the love match that is roiling the World Bank. Today, the bank's board released a statement expressing great concern about how bank President Paul Wolfowitz handled a promotion and a big raise for his girlfriend. The World Bank board has ordered a group to meet immediately and determine what action should be taken. Paul Wolfowitz has apologized, but he says he has no plans to resign.

COHEN: Workplace romances are certainly nothing new. Kevin Williams of the Society for Human Resource Management says according to their research many Americans have been, shall we say, more than friendly with a coworker.

Mr. KEVIN WILLIAMS (Society for Human Resource Management): We've had approximately 40 percent of employees state that they've been involved in a workplace romance at some point.

COHEN: OK, that may come as no surprise, but here's something that might. How many employers do you think actually have a company policy on office romance?

Mr. WILLIAMS: Approximately 72 percent in 2005 stated that they did not have any written workplace policy.

COHEN: That doesn't mean employers support canoodling with your cubby mate. Most take a dim view. But writing rules around love, well, that's tough. Employment attorney Peter Petish(ph) says some companies simply forbid all non-platonic work relationships.

Mr. PETER PETISH (Attorney): Others have chosen a middle ground and have required a form of disclosure, which is sometimes coupled with what's called a love contract.

COHEN: What's a love contract?

Mr. PETISH: A love contract is an agreement that was actually featured in a recent episode of the comedy series, "The Office."

(Soundbite of TV show, "The Office")

Ms. MELORA HARDIN (Actress): (As Jan Levinson) You get a copy, I get a copy, and a third copy goes to H.R.

Mr. STEVE CARELL (Actor): (As Michael Scott) Awesome, I'm going to frame mine. I could frame yours, too.

Ms. HARDIN: You realize this is a legal document that says you can't sue the company?

Mr. CARELL: Over our love.

Ms. HARDIN: I've never told you that I love you.

Mr. CARELL: You don't have to, Jan, this contract says it all.

COHEN: In real life, Peter Petish says, love contracts usually require employees to inform the H.R. department if the relationship turns sour. Which makes a certain amount of sense seeing that when office romances turn sour things can get really ugly.

Unidentified Man: But now Nowak is charged with attacking a female engineer over another astronaut, Navy Commander Bill Oefelein. Police say Nowak drove 900 miles from Houston to Orlando, wearing diapers so she wouldn't have to stop along the way.

COHEN: Jilted lovers getting back at each is one of employers' biggest concerns today. That's a somewhat new trend, too. According to the SHRM surveys, five times as many Human Resources professionals are worried about retaliation today than they were in 2000. They're also worried about what University of Massachusetts Professor Maureen Scully calls paramour preference.

Prof. MAUREEN SCULLY (University of Massachusetts): Which is when someone is having a relationship with a person in power and that power is then used favorably to help advance their career, give them special opportunities, or to block others.

COHEN: Of course, there are plenty of romances. Even long lasting marriages, which pose no problem in the workplace. Some studies even say these relationships can lead to increased productivity, better work morale, and improved interdepartmental communications.

The key to making relationships work at work is transparency, Scully says. With or without a love contract, best to let your fellow office mates and the folks in H.R. know if you're dating someone at work. But even that can be a challenge, says Maureen Scully, as not every workplace relationship is between a man and a woman.

Prof. SCULLY: Transparency's difficult if you're not out at work. So until we become more tolerant to the society, that's going to be a much higher hill to climb to get to transparency.

COHEN: One thing all H.R. experts seem to agree upon: no matter how you feel about workplace romances, you better get used to them. After all, with so many Americans spending so much time at the office, it's become one of the most popular places to find a life partner.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: Well, maybe you found your life partner on the Web. If not, you can find us. DAY TO DAY is now available as a Podcast. If you missed any of the show or you just want to listen to it again and again and again and again on your computer or your iPod - something I make my husband do - here's what you do.

Go to, scroll down a little, you'll see a Podcast link in the right hand column.

More coming up on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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