Advice On Office Romances
The Pro's and Con's of Dating Your Co-Worker
Dear April Masini,
I've always felt office romances were a bad idea and only led to messy situations instead of professionalism, but a co-worker and myself have started seeing each other. We both have respect for one another and thankfully don't get on the other's nerves -- even though we see each other at work and after work. Should we inform our company that we are seeing each other? Do you have any advice for handling office relationships?
Sincerely, Sex and Business"
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Sex and Business,
Office romances are no longer taboo. They are expected. Most people work, and since that is where they spend most of their time and energy, it makes sense that that is where they will meet other attractive singles. Sexual harassment in the work place does exist, so it's important to keep boundaries clear when you're interested in someone you work with.
If you find yourself in an office romance DO NOT inform your boss. In fact, you should be very careful that your romance does not impact your work in a negative way. Telling your boss that you are seeing someone is too much information and none of anyone's business at a business. However, don't make it their business by making out at the water cooler or sneaking off to long lunches that turn into romantic dates. Keep your work hours and your romance hours separate. Even though you're excited about this someone new, discipline yourself to keep these boundaries. It will even make the time you are together -- but can't show your affection -- more of a turn on.
Find out if your office has a legal policy about office romance by asking your personnel office. In fact, put the request in writing. Don't give details of your own interest in a co-worker. Just jot down a short letter or e-mail to personnel, asking, quite simply, about your company's policy on office romance. Save the correspondence in case, down the line, you need it.
Dating up or dating down can both be fodder for sexual harassment issues because of the difference in power. Any time that there is a romance, your co-workers may claim you played favorites or were played a favorite and got a promotion or perks because of your personal relationship. On the other hand, you may find yourself blasted by your ex office romance date if he or she claims you passed him over because you were angry or retaliatory over a romantic break. Watch it. Keep those boundaries in place!
And if you're still in doubt, read on:
(Wolf) whistle while you work? You Betcha!
Even though it’s often advised against, dating people you work with makes practical sense—after all, we spend so much of our lives in the office, there’s often no other way or time to meet anyone else. But that’s not to say you don’t have to be smart—extra smart, in fact — about your choices, and take special precautions if you’re going to venture into an office romance.
The one overriding warning worth heeding — the one that should dictate all of your actions and words — is this: People talk. No matter how friendly your co-workers are, or how tight-lipped the object of your affection seems, secrets are almost always spilled, one way or another, whether accidentally or intentionally. Translation? Say nothing and do nothing that you do not want everyone else to know. This means no chit-chat with the girls at the water cooler about his size or performance, and no pillow talk with him about how much you loathe your boss, and can’t wait to take over his or her job. There’s too much at stake—like, your livelihood—to take risks, and there’s too much to lose—like a potentially great love—not to give it a shot.
Some advice to make dating co-workers easier:
- Don’t mix business and pleasure on company time. Agree to date out-of-work hours, but don’t turn a business lunch into a romantic lunch.
- Stay fair. Don’t give someone you’re dating better work or pay, and don’t punish someone you’re breaking up with by giving him or her worse work or pay. Otherwise, you may find yourself on the receiving end of a lawsuit!
- Make sure he or she is actually single. If they’re not – then keep personal remarks at work limited to sports, the weather and the kids. Don’t gripe or listen to gripes about a spouse. “I’m sorry, I’m not comfortable talking about your wife – I want to keep our relationship all business because I value us as co-workers,” is all you need to say – and do.
PROS AND CONS OF DATING A CO-WORKER:
- You know he or she has a job. You know how he or she is thought of at work.
- You have a lot in common and can be more productive because you have this in common.
- There is an understanding of each other's work schedules. One of you isn't angry if the other has to work late because you have a better understanding of what's involved.
- If you break up or have a fight, you don't get the respite and space you may need to heal or cool down because you'll see the person so often at work.
- Sexual harassment is a real problem that can occur more easily when there are lines that get blurred at work. In addition, people gossip and you may make enemies if one of you is higher up in the corporate or business ladder at work, and the one is lower down may be perceived as getting unfair advantages.
- If one of you wants a break from work and the other is into work, you may not have an escape from it -- even out of the office.