Workplace Romance in Asia? (16Feb2015)

(Written by Justin Castro and Conrad Ko)

So you eye Aiah across the hall, your eyes interlocking every time they meet. You know you want it, you want it so bad. It’s not like it’s the first time you asked someone out (unless you’re really socially awkward, then all I can say is I’m so so verily sorry) but this time it’s different; this time, you’re in the office together. The little voice inside your head says it’s a bad idea; it’s going to create a conflict between your work life and your play/”real life” life, you won’t know how to interact with her: should you be professional because she’s your colleague or be flirty because you want her sooo bad.


Figure 1 Workplace Romances are generally like this, with less attractive people. Source: Thomas Northcut/Getty Images

Workplace romance is well, workplace romance. It’s when there’s romance in the workplace. I don’t think there’s any need to explain that further. There’s no specific account as to when it originated, but if I’d have to guess it started way way way back, with emperors falling in love with their slaves or concubines. I’m pretty sure there’s a dozen television shows out there with a subplot involving someone trying to conquer some country while having an affair, all the while their wife plots her spouse in secret while developing her own side romance with a conspirator. But I digress, in today’s hectic work environment where people are almost always expected to go overtime; it isn’t surprising to see workplace romances pop up. I’m pretty sure most water cooler discussions in the office revolve around who’s dating who in the office.

And don’t think it’s just the day-in day-out workforce that gets to have these romances. The leader of the free world, US President Barack Obama, met his other half while interning in his first law firm. Bill and Melinda gates met at a press event, and got married six years later with a marriage that involved a private jet, another philanthropist-billionaire (Warren Buffet) and probably the most expensive engagement ring of that time. And of course, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. They met while filming “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and eventually ended up as Mr. and Mrs. Pitt.


Figure 2 Brangelina. There’s no other couple as beautiful as this. We should probably just give up. Source: fanpop.com

According to a Workplace Option survey, nearly 85% from those aged 18-29 would consider having a workplace romance. That percentage decreases as the age increases, but it would be wise to assume it’s because some of those past the age of 30 have already married and settled down. As to why people partake in office romances, there’s a good variety of reasons.

The first and foremost are personal, that is the office romances are born out of the characteristics and personality of the people involved. This might be because certain jobs tend to attract people with the same interests. Anyone working in a startup would be well acquainted with technology, which makes it easier to start a conversation, which would hopefully lead to the start of a relationship.


Figure 3 Neckties were invented for stupid, sexy reasons. Source: Jonathan Ross

This is basically the standard romance, with the only difference being that the romance takes place in the workplace. The positives of having a workplace romance isn’t really considered, but it helps that it feels good to go to the office every day to see her, doesn’t it?

Then there are those that seek a romance for work-related reasons. Having a workplace romance increases job performance, or to improve job satisfaction or to have another reason to go to work…aside from work. There are also those that seek to improve their career, using such relationships to get themselves up the corporate ladder faster. And there are those that have one for the thrill of it as some people get a sexual kick from having a workplace romance, not to mention one that is extramarital in nature.


Figure 4 He’s definitely married. Just look at that grin. Source: askmen.com

However, don’t think it’s the same across the world. People in Asia tend to avoid such relationships as there is too much reverence between the boss and the worker. Singapore has around half of its workforce against workplaces romances, according to an online survey. This seems to be common amongst the Asian societies as they tend to be more collectivist in nature, as having workplace romances might damage the image of the company as one that isn’t serious about its work.

But if you’re not part of that statistic, then you should be able to reap in the rewards of having one.  People who have a workplace romance are generally more outgoing, have better productivity, have higher job satisfaction scores and are just better people to be around with overall (that’s the power of dopamine, strong stuff that is). But it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. As our early school lives have taught us, not all loves are meant to last. Once a relationship ends, animosity might develop and how the other officemates might see the couple might change. There’s also the threat of getting fired, if the relationship was a vertical one (that is, between someone in authority and someone who is a subordinate).


Figure 5All these photos have white people. Where we asians at? Source: Huffingtonpost.com

So after all these pros and cons, you’ve decided to get a workplace romance. How, do you ask? Well, just go get one. It’s no different from asking else out, just be prepared for whatever consequences that might entail, be that from straight on rejection to, gasp, a potential partner for marriage. There’s also culture to consider. People in Hong Kong are generally more cosmopolitan and globalized but those that come from more conservative countries might not like the idea of it. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to try. The worst that could happen is she slaps you in front of the office for daring to suggest a thing. But hey, you don’t get to be Michelle Obama if you don’t take any risk in dating that odd guy who just asked you out. Just be sure that you’re prepared for the fallout if things go south, which might probably happens depending on how bad of a human being you are.

Oh, and if you do get married because of this piece, please do invite me. Weddings are nice, besides the happy bride and groom there’s usually the open bar for all of us cynical people who just want to drink our problems out.


Figure 6 to be honest, I just made this post so I can show this picture



Conrad Ko

Conrad Ko

Conrad Ko is an exam consultant, grassroot entrepreneur and growth hacker.

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