Maybe it's the office hopping lifestyle? When it comes to office romance, consultants are one of the most permissive groups of employees around. Just 1% of consultants who took our office romance survey indicated that they thought romances between coworkers were never acceptable, while 31% claim that any kind of office fling is acceptable—even those between bosses and subordinates.
That's substantially more relaxed than the average respondent in our survey—overall, 5% believed all office romances to be unacceptable, with 29% seeing no problems with any kind of workplace relationship.
Overall, meanwhile, 52% of consultants confessed to having had some kind of romantic relationship with a coworker—slightly higher than the 51% rate for the survey as a whole.
So what is it that makes consultants that much more lax about workplace flings than employees in other industries?
Here are a few theories, based on data and individual responses from the survey:
It's the lifestyle
This is the most plausible (and therefore most boring) explanation. The temporary nature of most consulting assignments means that consultants are constantly being rotated onto new teams, in fresh locations. With the necessity of having to make awkward post-fling small talk with a colleague that much lower, chances are consultants just let their guards down more often. And company policy seems to support that thesis. While 34% of respondents didn't know if their company even has a policy on coworker relationships, here's the most typical response we got from those who did know:
"You have to notify the company so you won't be staffed on the same projects."
See? Even the firms recognize that it's not that big of a deal if their employees hook up. They'll just staff them at other ends of the country in future. Problem solved, as the following comment illustrates:
"Consulting is transient enough that there are rarely long-term gains from office relationships."
I'm not sure if "long-term gain" is intended as a synonym for sleeping your way to the top, some kind of allusion to growing together as a couple, or a cynical commentary on the engagement ring phenomenon, but it's beside the point: all of those things are off the table in consulting.
Consultants are just big, sappy romantics at heart
Behind that MBA number-crunching, business-model-analyzing façade lies a soul that is just yearning to make a meaningful connection with someone to ease the terrifying loneliness and angst of existence.
"I think it's a great way to meet someone as long as you don't manage one another, and I have many friends for whom it has worked wonderfully."
"If that is where you find love what can you do?"
"It gets more likely as you don't get to know a lot of other people and at the same time if you spend a lot time with a certain group of people with the same job, interests and values it is likely that you will start to like someone. Finding someone you love is the most important thing and it is possible to handle coworker relationships professionally if you are both intelligent."
Dudes tend to exaggerate their prowess
Fact: almost 68% of the consultants who responded to our survey were male, compared to 55% for the survey as a whole. If you've ever heard a bunch of guys talking about that fish they caught on vacation, the length of the putt they sunk to make birdie on 17, or the amount of danger their helicopter was in that time they were reporting from the Middle East, then you'll know that we have a tendency to stretch the truth. I'm not saying that's what happened here, but, well, I'm just saying…
There's no one worth dating anyway
"[Firm name redacted] is full of nerds and nutcases. A dateable girl here is a unicorn; I've heard rumors of their existence but have yet to see one in the wild."
Ouch. Just, ouch.
But, really, it's the lifestyle:
"In consulting many male employees, especially at higher levels, have romantic partners in other cities.
It especially happens on business trips, especially annual 'reward' events."
Given the hints of when and how these assignations take place, I'd love to know whether this person's definition of "romantic partner" includes the kind of "partners" that Secret Service agents make the news for meeting on "business trips."
Bottom line: a job that requires you to travel all over the country, if not the world, working on temporary teams seems like the perfect recipe for short-term flings with colleagues (and, dare I say, clients—but that's a whole other survey). Keeping those relationships together, however: one only needs to watch Up in the Air to get a sense of how difficult that can be.
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