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Co-workers with benefits: The influence of commitment uncertainty and status on employee engagement in romantic workplace relationships

Brad Shuck (Department of Educational Leadership, Evaluation, and Organizational Development, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, USA)
Jesse Owen (Department of Counselling Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA)
Megan Manthos (Department of Educational Counselling and Psychology, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, USA)
Kelley Quirk (Educational Counselling and Psychology, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, USA)
Galena Rhoades (Department of Counselling Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 11 April 2016

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the relation between employee engagement, decisions to be in a relationship with a co-worker, and commitment uncertainty in a sample of adults who identified they were currently working with their romantic partner.

Design/methodology/approach

Because workplace romance can be a taboo topic among working adults, we recruited participants anonymously from online social media websites (n=68). The use of non-experimental design limits the ability to draw causal references in relation to the variables of interest.

Findings

Participants who reported they were motivated to be in a romantic relationship with a co-worker to increase status also reported lower levels of engagement, even after controlling for other relationship (e.g. relationship adjustment) and workplace variables (e.g. intent to turnover).

Practical implications

Romantic relationships within the workplace will most certainly transpire yet the topic remains underexplored in the management literature. This work provides scholars and practitioners insight into the psychological mechanisms that influence workplace relationships and more, explores how relationships between co-workers impact performance variables such as employee engagement.

Originality/value

This is the first study to examine the influence of workplace romantic relationships in the context of employee engagement. Moreover, this is one of only a handful of studies that has documented the empirical linkage between workplace relationships and performance variables.

Keywords

Citation

Shuck, B., Owen, J., Manthos, M., Quirk, K. and Rhoades, G. (2016), "Co-workers with benefits: The influence of commitment uncertainty and status on employee engagement in romantic workplace relationships", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 35 No. 3, pp. 382-393. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMD-02-2015-0014

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited