Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Rebecca M. Chory

Committee Co-Chair

Melanie Booth-Butterfield

Committee Member

Elizabeth L. Cohen

Committee Member

Renee L. Cowan

Committee Member

Christine E. Rittenour


Workplace relationships range from professional working relationships, to workplace friendships, to romantic relationships at work. Cross-sex (male-female) workplace relationships, including friendships, are especially important for women, as research suggests they may help women to break through the "glass ceiling." Cross-sex workplace friendships are often perceived as romantic (e.g., Elesser & Peplau, 2006; Marks, 1994) and workplace romances are generally perceived negatively (Cowan & Horan, 2014, in press; Gillen & Chory, 2014a; Horan & Chory, 2009, 2011, 2013; Malachowski, et al., 2012). Guided by equity theory (Adams, 1965) and feminist organizational communication theorizing (Buzzanell, 1994), it is therefore hypothesized that organizational members in cross-sex workplace friendships will also be perceived negatively by their coworkers and targeted for antisocial behaviors. Further, as female members of workplace romances are consistently perceived more negatively than male members, it is hypothesized that female members of cross-sex workplace friendships will be perceived more negatively and will be targeted for antisocial behaviors more than male members. The following dissertation outlines three studies that examine organizational members' perceptions (credibility, motives, unfair advantages, and trust) of and behavior (obstructionism, information manipulation, and aggression) toward cross-sex workplace friendship partners. The first study is formative research employing a questionnaire with open-ended items to survey working adults who have personally observed cross-sex workplace friendships. Study 2 employs scenarios depicting a hypothetical coworker in a variety of workplace relationships (friendship, romance, professional). The third study employs a questionnaire with quantitative measures to survey working adults who have personally observed a cross-sex workplace friendship. Results indicate that although, overall, organizational members' perceptions of cross-sex workplace friendships do not seem to be overwhelmingly negative, organizational members do identify negative implications of these relationships. Further, results provided limited but encouraging support for equity theory. Finally, results indicate that organizational members often perceive that cross-sex workplace friendships are romantic, which is associated with organizational members' perceptions of increased workplace problems and antisocial behavior toward the coworkers in the cross-sex workplace friendships.