February 14, 2010
A match made at work: Office romance turns into marriage for some local couples
The way former co-workers Kris Hoots and Steve Thomas tell it, they were the last to know they'd fallen for each other.
"When we told a few friends at work that we were dating, they said, 'Duh!'" explains Hoots, 42.
The Bainbridge Island couple met in 2006 while working at a 60-person nonprofit fundraising agency. Although they didn't work in the same department, they wound up collaborating on numerous projects together -- projects they began looking forward to more and more.
"And then she got this haircut and I thought, 'Gosh, she's really good looking," says Thomas, 50, who was already enchanted with Hoots' intellect and sense of humor. "I found myself just wanting to be around her."
The feeling was mutual. After half a year of working together, Thomas, who prides himself on keeping his personal life out of the office, revealed that he was divorced.
"I went 'Woo-hoo!' to myself," Hoots says. And so began their whirlwind romance. Three months after the couple's first date, they married in Las Vegas.
Office romances that lead to nuptials aren't uncommon. According to CareerBuilder's 2009 office-romance survey, 31 percent of 8,000 U.S. employees polled had married someone they met at work.
Love and labor don't always mix
TheOfficeLife.com offers some things to consider before getting too cozy with a co-worker:
Find out whether your company has a policy about office relationships. Some may ask employees to sign a contract clearly indicating mutual consent.
Don't assume you'll be able to keep it a secret. Chances are, one of you will confide in the wrong person or you'll be seen in public together.
Keep in mind that the conflicting roles of your personal and professional relationship can cause strain in both areas of your life.
--Scripps Howard News Service
Because Hoots and Thomas didn't report to one another, neither found being married a conflict of interest at work. "It was easy to stay professional," Hoots says.
There was a catch. No one at the small firm had ever wed a co-worker, and some colleagues were overzealous in their excitement about the couple's marriage.
"We wanted to minimize that we were married, but our bosses kept bringing it up -- in front of vendors, in front of clients, in front of new employees," Hoots says. Eventually the couple asked their higher-ups to tone it down. "It was distracting," she says.
It's easier to fly under the radar when dating a co-worker at a larger company. Katie Hays and Ted Sheffield will attest to that.
The couple, who live in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood, met at work in 2004. When they started dating a year later, keeping their relationship quiet was a snap.
For one thing, the Seattle law firm they worked at employed hundreds. For another, Hays, 31, was in marketing, and Sheffield, also 31, was a first-year law associate -- so the two never worked together.
"We met at this one party right away but then didn't see each other again for months," Sheffield says. "She was two floors below me."
"I totally thought he was cute," Hays says. "I would try to walk by his office, but [the door] was always closed."
Many flirtatious e-mails and "awkward conversations in elevators" later, Sheffield asked Hays out. Despite their best efforts to take things slow, love quickly blossomed.
Because the two weren't sure what the firm's protocol was on workplace dating, "we had to keep it secret a while," Hays says. Eventually, Sheffield had a friend at the firm ask the managing partner if it was OK that the two were involved.
It was. When the two married in 2008, "The firm sent us a really nice card and wedding gift," Hays says.
Although Hays left the law firm last year for another job, the change had nothing to do with marrying Sheffield. The pair didn't see a downside to working under one roof as husband and wife.
"It made life convenient," Sheffield says. "[We] could just jump downstairs and get a coffee together. We miss that."
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