Coquetry is perhaps not serious enough of a word for the serious relationships this story discusses. Yet, after many years living under a cloud of secrecy , what was once verboten is now more visible, though with certain rules in place. The office romance/relationship/marriage is back, though not without caution. Under the workplace rules that in part stemmed out of harassment claims, people (and companies) have found a way to work through the potential problems:
Like a growing number of young couples, Nathan Shaw and Maiko Sato met at the office, in a Cisco Systems training program for new recruits. They dated openly as fellow employees for a couple of years.
And when Mr. Shaw was looking for a novel way to propose marriage, he picked the office as the setting. He engaged his boss as a co-conspirator. During a date with Ms. Sato one evening, his boss phoned Mr. Shaw on the pretext of asking him to stop by the office to test some teleconferencing gear.
As Ms. Sato gamely tried to help with the “test,” Mr. Shaw guided her to the engagement ring he had hidden, then flipped a flashing slide onto her teleconferencing screen: “Say yes!” After a moment of stunned silence, she did. The two married in 2008 and remain happily co-employed at Cisco’s San Jose, Calif., campus.Co-workers Cary Costello, left, and Stacie Taylor have been dating for 3½ years.Office romance is coming out of the closet. More than any other time during my 19 years of writing this column, the workplace has become a place for courtship. Some 67% of employees say they see no need to hide their office relationships, up from 54% in 2005, says a CareerBuilder survey of 5,231 employees released Tuesday.
In the past, “the Baby Boomers kept office romance secret” amid fears of career damage or reprisal, says Helaine Olen, co-author with Stephanie Losee of “Office Mate,” a book on the topic. Now, amid growing openness about sexuality and greater equality between the sexes, she says, singles “are saying, ‘Why is anybody even bothering to keep this secret at all?”‘
That doesn’t mean all the old rules have changed. Affairs when one or both partners are married are still taboo. Nor is it OK to snuggle up behind the copier with your latest crush. Employers still expect even the most out-there workplace couples to behave professionally.