Yes, dating a co-worker is common and according to some studies as many as 40% of workers have experienced an office romance. A flirtation at work can certainly make it more interesting to come into work on a Monday morning but there are also some dangers involved and before embarking on dating a co-worker it’s best to understand the risks, such as developing a negative reputation in your HR department.
Here then are some dos and don’ts when it comes to romance in the workplace.
Don’t romance on company time. When starting a new relationship there is often a lot of excitement and interest in spending time with that other person, and talking with them as much as possible. Be sure to limit this at work. Avoid private lunch dates that could result in excessive (and unapproved) time away from the workplace, and definitely avoid public displays of affection, while resisting any fantasies you might have about sex in the office. Keep your romance to non-working hours (like evenings and the weekend) and you’ll avoid any potential work conflicts.
Don’t start a romance with someone who is not available. This should go without saying but only pursue a romance with someone who is single and unattached. In addition to the ethical issues involved, starting a relationship with someone who is married or otherwise attached can result in many problems and conflicts that can significantly impact your work and personal life.
Don’t let it impact your work. If you’re going to fall in love at work be sure to continue to do your job well. This involves fulfilling your basic work responsibilities and, as noted above, avoiding romancing on company time.
Don’t date your manager or someone who reports to you. Avoid the power dynamics and conflicts that come from dating someone you report to or someone who reports to you. This will prevent any ethical violations on your job, such as showing or receiving favoritism when it comes to promotions, opportunities, or pay raises.
Do follow company protocol and policy. Many companies have policies in place in regard to work-place romance and if you want a future in your company it’s best to consider these. Some discourage these relationships while others encourage you to be transparent about an office romance. It is particularly important to consider company policy and consult your HR department if you decide to embark on one of the “don’ts” from above: dating a supervisor or someone who reports to you.
Do take no for an answer. Workplace harassment is a common and serious issue. If your potential partner does not return your interest or decides to break things off after a few dates handle the situation maturely and do not press the situation. If you have a difficult time letting go in relationships that might just be a clue to avoid a workplace relationship.
A workplace romance can help make the job more interesting, and provide you with someone who understands the daily struggles of the job. You might just even find a life partner on the job (like I was fortunate to do).
However, there are negative aspects to office romances and risks involved and it’s best to know what you’re getting into before you pursue a relationship with a coworker.
Originally published in STAND Magazine.
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