Office Romances are Usually a Bad Idea

By Steven Mintz

Thursday will mark Valentine’s Day. What better time to talk about workplace romances? Dating in the workplace is a bad idea and can lead to severe consequences for both parties. A serious dating relationship may turn sexual and add another layer of ethical dilemma if and when the relationship goes south. Office romances can stifle productivity, lead to sexual harassment charges, and destroy the workplace environment.

My advice is do not get started in the first place; don’t take that first step down the proverbial “ethical slippery slope.” That said, office romances can and will continue to occur. So, here is my take on the practice and how it can affect employees and the employer.

What Constitutes an Office Romance?

An office romance is a relationship between two individuals employed by the same company that advances beyond the socially acceptable employer-employee association and the work-related duties that require their interaction. The relationship can be of a sexual nature where employees engage in activities in and outside work or where one employee makes sexually suggestive remarks about the other.

The danger of the latter is in creating a “hostile work environment” that might lead to a claim of sexual harassment. In fact, that is the biggest danger of having an office romance.

If the affair blows up so may the workplace environment. It could lead to one employee doing everything and anything to avoid the other; difficulties in getting work done when working together; and, in the extreme, cyber-bullying.

The truth is office romance is inevitable because people work closely together for hours and can get to know each other in an intimate way that leads to sexual advances. The real question is: Should employers try to stop them?

Report Dating to HR

Can anything be done from the employers’ perspective to reign in the practice? Of course, office romance can be prohibited, but that is unlikely to make a difference when hormones are raging.

An employer should require employees to report dating relationships to the HR department, not to prevent them necessarily but to make both parties aware and sign-off that they are engaging in a consensual relationship. It is like a pre-nup for an office romance. Moreover, if the company has a sexual harassment policy, they should make it clear they understand the rules.

‘Dangerous Liaison’ Syndrome

Most office romances end, some with lingering awkwardness when one member of the couple wishes that the romance could continue and the other does not. The “dangerous liaison” syndrome is likely to disrupt the workplace. Patterns of distrust emerge. Sides are taken. Reputations are damaged.

The possibilities of retaliation and retribution threaten every assignment and evaluation. found that the fear of reprisal after a romance ends affects 67 percent of those who have been so involved.


Here is my final advice. Before you take the plunge consider how you would feel if you lost your job. Everyone who has experienced heartbreak knows that proximity to an ex can be unbearable. All too often, say experts, failed office romances result in one person leaving the job–willfully or not.

 Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, posted this on this blog on a previous Valentine’s Day.


Skipping Work after the Big Game

Employee absenteeism after major sports events like the Super Bowl is on the rise, suggests new research from staffing firm OfficeTeam.

More than half of professionals (54 percent) know someone who’s called in sick or made an excuse for skipping work following a big game. That’s up from 41 percent three years ago.

In a separate survey, senior managers identified playing hooky the day after (42 percent) as the most distracting or annoying employee behavior when it comes to sports, a 20-point jump from a similar survey in 2017.

“It’s easy to get drawn into the excitement of major sports events,” said Stephanie Naznitsky, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Employees can do their part to keep it business as usual by giving advance notice if they want to take a day off, keeping game discussions to a minimum, and following company guidelines for things like breaks and fan gear.”

Naznitsky added, “Managers may cut their workers some slack leading up to and after a popular event by offering schedule flexibility or organizing group activities to celebrate. It’s also a good idea to contact a staffing firm to help cover employee absences.”

Goals and New Year’s Resolutions: Start Small, Build from There

We’re nearly one month into the New Year. Are you still going to the local gym to work out? Or did that resolution fizzle out already? What about losing weight? How is that one going? Or have the delicious donuts at the local bakery put that notion in the rear view mirror already?

Whether it’s for personal reasons, business purposes, or some combination, when it comes to setting goals and/or New Year’s resolutions, it’s easy to start out like a house afire in early January only to fizzle out not long after that. Now I am NOT a big goal setter or an expert in this area – not in the least! But I do have a few practical ideas to share based on my experiences. Namely:

* Start small, and build from there. I think part of the problem in setting goals is that many of us start out with goals that are too big to be realistic. For instance, “I’m going to lose 50 pounds in 2019.” Sounds great, but if you didn’t meet your goal of losing, say, 15 pounds last year, isn’t saying you’re going to lose 50 setting yourself up for failure?  Wouldn’t it be a better idea to start with the 15 pounds you set as a goal previously, and go from there?

* Success builds upon success. Set a goal you are confident you can meet – hopefully not one so easy that it isn’t a challenge, but not one that’s so “pie in the sky” you have almost no chance of meeting it. If you’ve lost 10-15 pounds in the past, what is to stop you from doing so again?

* Share your idea. There’s nothing like accountability when it comes to setting a goal. If you’re the only person who knows what you have in mind, no one will know if/when you fail – right? Choose an accountability partner – be it your spouse, best friend, workout buddy, or anyone else.

* Tell a professional. Say you want to lose 15-20 pounds? Or what about working out five days a week at the local gym? Or both? As well as being a realistic goal, you need a road map to get you there. This is where the advice from a professional can really be helpful. What does your doctor think is a realistic weight-loss goal based on your lifestyle? What would your local fitness provider have to say about your workout plan? Are your ideas attainable? If so, what specifically do you need to do to get there? If your ideas AREN’T realistic – work with a professional(s) on a goal more likely to be met. As noted earlier, “start small, and build from there.”

(Original Caption) Actor Sylvester Stallone, described as looking like Rock Hudson sculpted from mashed potatoes, wrote the script to “Rocky” and then got the title role. Film tells of an unknown Philadelphia boxer who, with the help of trainer (Burgess Meredith), R, takes a crack at the World Heavyweight Boxing championship. Scene from the movie. Movie still, 1976.

* Set a time frame. Finally, this is one that’s easy to overlook: WHEN will you achieve the goal by? If you want to lose 20 pounds in one month, you need to drop five pounds a week. That isn’t real likely. What about losing 20 pounds in, say, three months? Four? Six? This is where talking to a doctor or nutritionist can be a real help. The same thing is true of a fitness goal. If you want to go to the gym five days a week, but have only been going once, how about starting with some middle ground…. Go twice a week….and then build from there…. Keep going forward, making progress so that within say… four months…. you ARE going five days a week.

As for me? One goal I have is to write shorter blog posts in 2019. How did I do? At 619 words, not very well – I was shooting for 500 or fewer! Nuts.

But the good news about goals is there is always tomorrow … just keep at it, whatever it is. If you need some more motivation, try a real-life or fictional role model that’ll work for you, like the one at upper right. I know he’s one of mine!

What do Millennials Really Want?

By Lisa Earle McLeod and Elizabeth McLeod

Attracting and keeping top Millennial talent is a burning issue for business leaders. Millennials represent 35% of the workforce. By 2020 they’ll be nearly half (46%) of the working population.

Organizations like G Adventures, Google, and Hootsuite are filled with Millennials who are on fire for their jobs. Yet many organizations struggle to attract, and retain, top Millennial talent.

Below, Elizabeth shares her insights about what top-performing Millennials want, and how leaders can ignite the “energy of a thousand suns.”

An Open Letter to Management:

You hired us thinking maybe this person might be in it for the long haul. We’ve been on the job for six months, then drop a bomb on you. We’re quitting.

We know the stereotypes. Millennials never settle down. We’re drowning in debt for useless degrees. We refuse to put our phone away. We are addicted to lattes even at the expense of our water bill. Our bosses are not wrong about these perceptions.

But, pointing to our sometimes irresponsible spending and fear of interpersonal commitment isn’t going to solve your problem. You still need us. We’re the ones who’ve mastered social media, who have the energy of a thousand suns, and who will knock back $5 macchiatos until the job is done perfectly.

I’ve worked in corporate America, administrative offices, advertising agencies, and restaurants. I’ve had bosses ranging from 24 to 64. I’ve had bosses I loved, and bosses I didn’t. I’ve seen my peers quit, and I’ve quit a few times myself. *

Lisa Earle McLeod is the creator of the popular business concept, Noble Purpose, and author of the bestseller, “Selling with Noble Purpose: How to Drive Revenue and Do Work That Makes You Proud.” Elizabeth McLeod is a Millennial, cum laude graduate of Boston University, and daughter of Lisa Earle McLeod.

* TO FIND OUT MORE — To learn what’s REALLY behind a Millennial’s resignation letter, see the March 2019 Employee Assistance Report (EAR) newsletter, which will email the last week in February. To find out more about EAR, go to


On Getting Older and Turning the Big 6-0

Note: This post marks the return of regular blog posts after a holiday hiatus. Topics for future posts are always welcome!

“When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now… Will you still need me, will you still feed me? When I’m sixty-four.”

Perhaps you recognize this little ditty? “When I’m Sixty-Four”, a song by the Beatles, written by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon-McCartney), was released in 1967 on the album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.

I thought mentioning these lyrics was appropriate, seeing as how I turned the big 6-0 on Monday. Besides that, this was one of the many pop songs we sang in high school chorus. Sixty-four?! That number seemed like an eternity away when you were in your teens. Now, in just four more years, I WILL be sixty-four!

Certainly, there are things we all lament about aging. We can’t see or hear as well as we used to. The aches and pains we easily shrugged off as youth now take a lot longer to get over. I get a twinge in my left shoulder when I put on a coat or jacket – this never happened 20 years ago! Those examples are just for starters. Like most of you, I could go on and on about the not-so-fun aspects of getting older!

But when it comes to aging, why do we tend to only dwell on the negative? There are plenty of positives, too! Think back to some of the stupid, impulsive things you did in your teens or 20s. What about those? Would you be even as remotely likely to do the same, dumb thing today? I doubt it.

It’s like the insurance commercial goes… “We know a thing or two, because we’ve seen a thing or two.”

It’s like the insurance commercial goes… “We know a thing or two, because we’ve seen a thing or two.” It’s not so much that we’re that much smarter now, it’s just that we have learned from experience what to do – or what not to do – in any number of situations.

I attended a reunion last fall of my alma mater’s journalism department, and I observed, and listened to, current J-school students pose questions to a keynote speaker, which seemed like old hat to me. But not to someone still in college! It was all new to them! Remember?!

Listening to, and conversing with young people made me realize the multitude of things I know about my field that I just take for granted. I simply have years of experience to fall back on when a given problem arises. A number of students were happy to learn what I had to share. As I say, I’ve gone through a lot of experiences that someone in their 20s hasn’t. Talk about a person feeling better, and not just older!

Now, one needs to be humble, and recognize there are ALWAYS new things to learn! Rather, as someone in their 40s, 50s, or even 6-0, it’s important to also realize that you have simply taken a LOT more steps down the road of life than a young person.

The moral of the story: Don’t just lament getting older. One, you can’t do anything about it anyway. Second, bear in mind all of the life lessons you know NOW, that you had no clue about decades ago.

Many Employees Uncomfortable Asking for Holiday Time Off

1 in 2 employees is uncomfortable/somewhat uncomfortable asking their managers for time off during the holidays, according to a new study from West Monroe Partners.

The study goes on to say that 51% say they feel either unmotivated or overwhelmed (26%) after returning to work, which makes sense – if you’re on edge about asking for PTO, your “time off” isn’t going to feel very relaxing.

Mike Hughes, a managing director with West Monroe and author of the study, says organizations should examine what they can do to help employees….like giving them the ability to work remotely.

In fact, the ability to work remotely came as a top requirement for employees to be more productive during the holiday season, and 91% said they feel productive when working remotely.

As businesses enter the holiday season, it’s important for leaders to consider how they can best position their business for success in the New Year with a focus on employee productivity and engagement. The following recommendations are based on survey data and experience as workforce consultants in a tight job market:

Close the office on days beyond federal holidays, when feasible: Companies that do not close extra days during the holiday season may look at the cost of this action and decide it’s too steep – but consider the return on investment. Employees report increased satisfaction and productivity leading into the time they’re most likely to search for other jobs. And in a tight job market, that ROI is very real. If it’s not possible for your business to close on additional days during the season, then it’s even more important to offer workers alternative ways of disconnecting and recharging, such as greater scheduling flexibility.

Accommodate more remote working: With the holiday season now in full force, leaders should strike a balance between business goals and accommodating employee preferences, especially more remote working. The impact on productivity could be immense: Imagine an employee who would otherwise request PTO to visit longer with family out of town, but through remote working can accomplish two days’ worth of work while still getting to enjoy family time in the evening.

 Consider flexible scheduling — and recognition: During the holidays, 38 percent of employees want fewer in-office distractions so they don’t feel they have to put in overtime to get their work done. Others want to come in and leave early to have more holiday family time. For these workers, flexible scheduling options during the holidays can significantly drive productivity and morale.

Showing Staff Appreciation this Holiday Season

By Danielle Korins

It’s been said that “a company is nothing without its people.” A solid team of professionals makes for a successful and booming business—after all, they are what keep the engine running.

This holiday season, make it clear to your staff how important they are every day of the year. As the Chief Human Resource Officer at Sterling—the global leader in employment background screening and talent solutions— we put together ten best practices when it comes to showing staff appreciation.

A few of them appear below:

Time off. With so much to do to get ready for the holidays, giving employees extra days off, or even a portion of a day, will help them tremendously. But however you decide to approach time off, make sure that it will not affect the employee’s workload. The last thing you want to do is recognize one member of your team while burdening the others with extra work.

Personalize rewards. Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to rewards will not be a successful way to increase engagement. All employees have different personalities and preferences, so to get the most out of the rewards you give, choose things that are most likely to make them feel appreciated.

Speak up. Showing appreciation does not necessarily have to be in the form of a gift. Just saying “thank you for a hard day’s work” or “thank you for your contribution to this project” can make employees feel valued, especially if the recognition is coming from someone in upper management.

Do it often. Thanking employees is not just something you should wait for the holidays to do. In order to inspire the engagement you need to keep productivity high and turnover low, be sure to make employee appreciation part of your workplace culture.

As the saying goes, “little things mean a lot.”

Will Fancy Office Buildings Become Extinct?

You’re likely aware that more people are working from home than ever before. According to a recent survey from Indeed, more and more jobs are allowing employees to work remotely.

Out of the 500 employees surveyed, 55% percent said they were allowed to work remotely, and among those, 75% said this perk improved work-life balance, and 60% said that their productivity improved.

Small businesses were among the least likely to allow their employees to work from home, although 40% of small business employers surveyed stated that they supported the option to do so. This begs the question:

“Should the modern employer be less focused on providing state-of-the-art office spaces if employees would rather skip the commute and work from home?”

I read, and then re-read this question, and it really got me to thinking! I have worked in lots of different work environments, everything from quiet and secluded, to noisy and open. Co-workers who largely went about their business each day – versus colleagues who liked to chat a lot.

As a result, part of any decision about remote work needs to address what type of worker YOU are. You have to be a self-starter, self-motivated, and okay with having little face-to-face interaction with colleagues. If that isn’t you, remote work might be a bad idea.

In addition to individual differences, the type of work the business does, as well as its size, also need to be taken into account. Certain professions, like writing, editing and graphic design, are much more conducive to remote work than other fields. When I started working from home (I still prefer that term over “remote” work!) more than seven years ago, the only big change in my day-to-day work was that instead of being handed a paper proof, I received it electronically.

“Brick-and-mortar” issues such as construction costs, office rent, etc. are another big consideration for any business thinking about allowing more employees to skip the office commute and work from home. It used to be that if a company wanted to expand, it was almost automatically looking at building (or leasing) a bigger building. Today this can be a murky matter. The firm might be better off sticking with the physical size building it has, and encouraging (wherever applicable) more employees to work from home. What a cost savings!

Or what if you are an EAP practitioner or other behavioral health professional with an individual practice? Chances are, the cost of renting an office, especially if you live in an expensive city where space is at a premium – such as New York, Chicago, or Seattle – is even more cost prohibitive than it is for an employer!

Then there is the complex matter of how to manage employees who work from home – an area that I believe is going to become a big EAP issue in the near future. Part one of an article by Jan Makela in the December “Employee Assistance Report” (EAR) offers some great advice.  For more on EAR go to

It’s a lot to think about, but even if you haven’t had to consider these issues yet, you very likely WILL need to examine this emerging trend in the near future. Who knows? It might even involve fancy office buildings becoming largely a thing of the past.


More On Importance of Being Thankful

With the Thanksgiving holiday last week, I knew that it would be appropriate to write about the importance of giving thanks and being grateful. This week, I really thought that would be the last thing I’d be writing about.

But it wasn’t.

First, in my last post, “Developing Optimism in an Age of Pessimism,” I noted that research has shown that: “Eighty percent of physical, emotional, and mental health are a direct result of our thought lives” (Leaf, 2009). See her landmark book, “Who Switched Off My Brain?” at

EIGHTY percent! If our thinking is THAT important to what we say and what we do, what could we accomplish if we thought more positive thoughts more of the time, and not the negativity that it’s so much easier to lapse into?

But I probably still would have been writing about a different topic had it not been for the segment by A.J. Jacobs on giving thanks for a cup of coffee on CBS Sunday Morning. See more here:

Jacobs, you see, embarked on a lengthy journey to thank each of the different people involved in making his morning “cup of Joe” a reality. Jacobs’s 10-year-old son pointed out that it wasn’t enough for Dad to “Give thanks” out loud over his morning pick-me-up, a daily habit shared by many of us.

No, if he was really serious about his gratitude, Dad would thank the numerous people along the way.


That meant thanking a truck driver to, yes, traveling to Colombia where the coffee beans were grown.

Now I’m not saying that we have to go THAT FAR to be truly grateful for something. But Jacobs brought the idea of “giving thanks” to a whole another level.

Let’s say you had a terrific salad for lunch yesterday. It had everything you like on it: Spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, red peppers, black olives. The works. You “might” remember to thank the waiter, but what about the cook who chopped up the veggies? The busboy who cleaned up your table afterward? Maybe, depending on where he lived, even the farmer who grew the vegetables?

You get the idea.

What would our world be like if more people thought like Mr. Jacobs, as opposed to the negativity that comes much more easily to us?

Being thankful isn’t a one-day thing, it’s a lifestyle.

Developing Optimism in an age of Pessimism

When we fail to notice the positive, our brains naturally emphasize the negative.”

I ran across this statement by KJ Dell’Antonia in an article in Time magazine. I read it. Then I re-read it. Then I thought about it. BINGO. What a perfect post for Thanksgiving! Why do we need to have a holiday each year to remind us to be thankful for all of the good things in our lives? Shouldn’t that just come naturally? Sometimes it does, sure.

But also consider the recent midterm election races: One side of the fence was ELATED when a given candidate won– while the other was upset, EXASPERATED. Or what about the economic news that the Dow went down. Again.

Or the latest bombing or school shooting. Perhaps a bad bullying incident at a local school left us in a foul, negative mood about how mean kids are. Etc. etc. Maybe the cesspool of negativity we are surrounded in much of the time has something to do with it?

It’s worth noting again: “When we fail to notice the positive, our brains naturally emphasize the negative.”

What about all of the people whose lives were saved in an active assailant situation because of Officer John Doe’s heroic actions? Why didn’t we think more about that report when we heard it?

But it’s easier to be a pessimist and dwell on the bad, isn’t it?

Or the bullying incident. I remember LOTS of bullies growing up, and your only recourse was to put up with it, or fight back. Anti-bullying campaigns in schools? Didn’t exist in my day! We need to take more note of people trying to do something about societal problems.

But it’s easier to be a pessimist and dwell on the bad, isn’t it? My mom and dad used to have their TV tuned in to CNN much of the day. Then they wondered why they were so anxious and negative much of the time! “Turn the channel or turn it off!” I’d say. It’s great they always wanted to know what was going on in the world – but still. …

Too many times the news we read and hear causes fear. Rather than informing us, it mostly leaves us worried. Scared. Maybe even terrified. What about focusing more on the good things going on in the world that get swept under the rug?

In his book Hardwiring Happiness, neuropsychologist Rick Hanson says, “We are designed to focus on the beasts that are still out there in the deep rather than on those we have tamed.”

“Wow!” I thought. That explains a lot, doesn’t it? But all is not lost: Optimism can be developed. Our thought worlds are powerful, more powerful than we think.

“Eighty percent of physical, emotional, and mental health are a direct result of our thought lives,” writes Caroline Leaf in her landmark book, Who Switched Off My Brain? EIGHTY percent! So, if the bulk of one’s thoughts are negative, it’s no wonder why someone would be so pessimistic!

One recourse, Dr. Leaf says: “Reject incoming info and get rid of what you don’t want, before it wires into your brain.”

I heartily recommend books like Dr. Leaf’s because we CAN learn to retrain our brains to think more positively. Is it easy? No. Does it take time? It sure does. But in the cesspool of negativity we live in, in which positive days like Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday are more the exception than the rule, what does it hurt to try?

Pay more attention to the positive each and every day, and not just Thursday. I’m going to give it a try. What about you?