Office romances have been around for as long as offices (or other workplaces). Because of the amount of time we spend at work, side by side with our coworkers, our social lives and professional lives often become entwined. Those relationships are sometimes quite intimate, even when they aren’t romantic. That in itself can be problematic, but when those friendships grow into romances, watch out! If you find yourself attracted to a coworker, follow these rules to stay out of trouble.
Think Twice Before You Jump Into a Relationship
Meeting a significant other at work may be great for your social life, but it can be like a train wreck for your career. Common sense tells you to avoid an office romance because it may reflect poorly on both of you and you know it will be awkward if things don’t work out. Sometimes, however, your good judgment goes awry when chemistry takes over.
Don’t even head out on a first date until you think seriously about it. First, find out if your organization has a formal policy that forbids employees dating one another. If it does, put that date on hold until one of you has a different job. You may think you can date secretly, but it is not worth the risk.
Next, even if your employer doesn’t have a formal policy, consider whether it frowns upon office romances. Try to recall situations in the past that became a problem for someone in your workplace. Ask your mentor at work, if you have one, for advice. Don’t arouse your other colleagues’ suspicion by discussing it with them.
Don’t Break the Law
Making romantic overtures toward a coworker can end in sexual harassment charges for you. Be extremely cautious, especially if the person whom you are interested in is your subordinate. Make it clear that there won’t be any repercussions if they turn you down. Don’t even joke about it, for example, by saying or implying that you won’t take no for an answer.
After you begin dating, make sure your feelings remain mutual. Your partner should not feel pressured to stay in the relationship. Sexual harassment suits are unpleasant for everyone involved. Be aware of what constitutes it and don’t do anything that a colleague could take for an unwanted sexual advance.
Discretion Is Key
As long as all parties are okay with moving forward, you may decide to take the plunge. That doesn’t mean you should go public with your new relationship at work. It could make your coworkers uncomfortable.
With social networking sites and tv reality shows encouraging us to let the world witness our most personal moments, discretion has become a dying art. It is much more prudent to keep workplace romance private rather than flaunt it in front of your coworkers.
Don’t lie about the relationship, but don’t let it all hang out for everyone to watch as it unfolds either. You might become the subject of workplace gossip.
Set Rules With Your Partner and Have an Exit Plan
Although it may not seem very romantic, formulate a set of rules, and an exit plan if things don’t work out. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page about it. Do both of you want something serious or does one of you want to keep it casual?
Decide how to proceed at work. For example, will the romance be a secret? Will you avoid arriving at work together or leaving at the same time? Do you plan to share your lunch breaks?
Then comes the tough part, the one no one embarking on a new relationship wants to consider. Although the possibility of your romance not lasting may seem unfathomable when it is just beginning, figure out how to handle it if that unfortunate event does occur. Unless you or your partner plans to quit your job, seeing each other every day might be unavoidable. Figure out how that will work before it happens.
Don’t Let Your Feelings Get in the Way of Doing Your Job
If you and your partner are also subordinate and boss, there could be trouble ahead. It is most prudent to avoid a romance in this case but if you decide not to, don’t let your feelings for one another influence how to do your job. Not following this rule could lead to one or both of you having to look for a new place of employment and a new partner.
For instance, it may be difficult to critique your partner’s work even though your role in the organization requires it. Having to answer to a partner who is higher up in the organization’s chain of command may also become a problem.
Putting your romance ahead of your job would be doing a great disservice to your employer and could also upset colleagues who may feel they are getting unequal treatment.
It’s also important to remember that organizational structures can change and your partner could end up linked together in the chain of command. If you can’t navigate both your job and relationship, move onto another employer or ask for a transfer within the organization that would keep you from working together in that capacity.