Office Romance: What to Do and Avoid?
Should we really be shocked when coworkers’ eyes connect across the water cooler, given that more of us work long hours, leaving less time and energy for dating?
According to Susan Quilliam, a relationship expert who specializes in both corporate and personal relationships, it’s only natural for intimate connections to grow between people who spend eight hours a day, five days a week, together.
Even though many people who are happily married meet at work, office romances need to be handled carefully.
Although office romances can and often succeed, not all do or are without issues. Susan cautions, “Be careful to get into any relationship with your eyes open. A badly handled, messy romance might potentially jeopardize your job, leaving you heartbroken.
Here are some dos and don’ts to remember if you’re dating someone at work already. Our eight principles for email etiquette can help you avoid making a faux pas ever again.
Don’t date a coworker to get out of a dreary office
Your thrill rises as you see his name pop into your inbox. She occupies the seat next to you in the meeting, so forget about paying attention to the most recent sales figures. The rush of attraction can be thrilling, but Susan advises stepping back if your focus has wandered. Could the frisson be a way to brighten up an uninteresting workday?
Could it be that you’ve grown disenchanted with your job if the highlight of your commute is seeing a specific coworker? Would your connection last outside of the office, even if the flirting is reciprocal? In that case, rather than focusing on your coworker, you might want to take a closer look at how you feel about your job.
Never date your employer
Office relationships are tricky enough as it is, but when you date someone who is exactly above or below you in the food chain, you’re asking for trouble.
Your coworkers might believe you’re receiving an unfair edge, and upper management might wonder how you can lead an employee with whom you have a love relationship. Charges of harassment are another possibility.
Human Resources might see a potential legal minefield even though you think this conclusion is unlikely. It’s not uncommon for the less senior (typically younger and female) party in a broken relationship to file a sexual harassment claim or allege that the superior party misused their position of power.
The sooner you start looking for a new career or consider a move to a different department if you two are truly in love, the better.
Inform your manager
The majority of office romances begin in secret, but few continue to do so.
Your private life is your business and should be kept that way, but there is one person you should think about telling: your boss, advises Corinne. Keep things simple when you request a meeting. Just show that you can handle the matter professionally without going into too much depth. If other working relationships have deteriorated, tell your management that there will be no conflict of interest.
Don’t engage in conflict in front of your coworkers
Want to tarnish your reputation at work as a professional? The best way to go about it is to act out your domestic dramas during work hours.
According to Susan, all couples have disagreements, and even heated arguments—if handled properly—can be good for a relationship. Unfortunately, people who work together can’t just get away from one another to relax. If the situation escalates, take a 10-minute break from work, walk, or contact a friend—preferably not a coworker. Never argue further in snarky emails or, worst yet, aloud. Be careful to follow through on your agreement to discuss it when you get home.
Avoid making out at business gatherings
Being professional at all times, including during team-building exercises and business gatherings, will help you create a professional reputation.
However, Corinne cautions against being naive enough to believe that what happens offsite won’t be remembered once you return to the office. “People are more laid back on business trips,” she advises.
‘Inappropriate behaviour puts others’ perceptions of you in jeopardy. You may have hurt your prospects of getting promoted or been less likely to be recommended for other positions in addition to being the main topic of discussion on Monday morning.
Create a plan of action
As the saying goes, breaking up is never easy, but when you work together, it may be considerably harder, and it is something that shouldn’t be understated.
When two people start dating at work, they don’t usually discuss the possibility of breaking up, but Susan points out that it’s an important topic.
If you split up, consider how you will handle seeing each other daily. Have you already avoided heartache by devoting yourself to your work? If so, are you willing to look for a new position to truly move on? Consider how you will handle situations where one party wishes to leave the relationship, just as corporate partnerships have an exit strategy. If you two are sincere about one other, it could be wise for one of you to look for work elsewhere right away for various reasons.