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Study Shows Flirting at Work Increases Productivity

According to studies conducted in the UK and France, employees are convinced that flirting with colleagues actually improves their productivity.  The French study, done by Opinion Way, showed a marked discrepancy in perception between employees and managers, with 55% of employees finding flirting at work a productivity enhancer and a majority of managers believing that amorous relations in the workplace is deleterious to productivity. Psychologists at the Grenoble School of Management have also weighed in, claiming that the problems generated by workplace relationships of a sexual nature are much more serious than any benefits that can be obtained in the short term.

In the short term, there is of course a substantial uptick in the motivation of the two  lovers — they are happy to come to work in the morning, mainly because they will find each other. There is a period of excitement in the beginning and it can certainly translate into productivity gains at work. It can further be beneficial for the entourage of the involved colleagues.

The catch is that if there exists a period of grace for the workplace flirt, the relationship often ends in pain and misgivings.  In the workplace the problems usually start when two involved colleagues in the same department separate.  Often that’s when the low blows, the nastiness, the remarks and the betrayals begin.  And a separation that goes badly between colleagues can have a disastrous impact on the group.  This is already the case when people undergo a separation and their partner works somewhere else.  It can be much more painful when the ex-partner is a colleague at work.

Not all idylls at the workplace finish up badly.  In 90% of the cases there is deleterious effect on the company.  It’s the remaining 5-10% of the messy breakups that can be terrible for the company or organization.

Sometimes it can be disastrous even when the relationship is going well, particularly when power is concentrated in one or both colleagues and strategic information passes via the pillows.  Or the workplace environment can be spoiled because of the favoritism effect of a relationship between a colleague and his or her hierarchical superior. As an organizational psychologist put it,  “the person with whom my boss is having a relationship becomes my de facto second boss.”   And how do colleagues who are having a relationship deal peacefully with a professional disagreement?

To discourage intimate relationships between colleagues, or at the very least to be informed of them rapidly, some employers have gone as far as to draw up codes of conduct. The luxury industries, banking and finance sectors and large American multinationals have been  pioneers in this area, drawing up elaborate internal company regulations to manage the operational risk of employees who engage in intimate relationships with colleagues. The regulations of these companies permit the management to transfer employees or terminate their contracts.

Nonetheless,  many studies show that intimate relationships at work  are on the rise. This is not at all surprising considering that professionals are spending more and more time at work, under conditions of more and more stress, pressure and harassment.  The more difficult and trying an environment, the more such relationships form in the workplace. The medical sector, for example, is one of the sectors with the highest quotient of intimate relationships between colleagues.

Paradoxically,  it’s often  at the top of the hierarchy — from where originate all the complaints of the deleterious effects of workplace flirts — that one finds the most flirtatious activity.

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