Love and Work at the Office

Posted on February 9, 2016.

A torrid office love affair…sounds like a good beach read, right?  That is, up until it becomes a reality you have to deal with at the office. Several years ago, a friend of mine began dating a peer on another team at her company.  

They had moments in the elevator, shared lunches, went on clandestine dates. It was exciting and fun, until things went south and things got awkward.  My friend was so uncomfortable that she felt there was nothing she could do but leave a job and company she really liked.

While that doesn’t seem like much of a cautionary tale, it could have been. My friend’s boss was not pleased to learn of the relationship after the fact and, it being a small company, a much more distant relationship between my friend and her ex made things difficult until she left for her new job.

I’ve talked about how to handle office relationships among employees, but what about if you’re the one who wants to do the dating? The odds are decent (31%, according to CareerBuilder) that you’ll meet your future life partner, but the decision requires careful consideratio, especailly as a leader who shoudl be setting an example.. A casual fling in the workplace is kind of like a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates - sweet in the moment, but maybe not worth the stomach ache later.

 If you do start dating that guy or gal in accounting, take my advice:

1.     For the love of all that’s holy, no canoodling at the office. Yes, you might think no one saw (like my friend and her elevator smooching), but let’s be real.  Folks have a sixth sense about that kind of thing. They’ll know. Or at least suspect. Also, no one wants to discover any kind of anything going on anywhere at work. Not to mention you could get fired. Which brings me to the next point.

2.     Read up on your company’s dating policies. Some businesses forbid it while others have a more flexible approach. Either way, knowing what’s at stake will help you think things through, or even (in true manager style) conduct a risk/benefit analysis. And be espically careful if that person works in your group or worse, works for you.

3.     Keep your relationship, and all related communication, out of the office. Your work email is not private. Flirting is completely off limits (you are never as subtle as you think).  Having lunch together every day, showing up at work together, or even just sitting next to each other in a meeting is a no-no. Basically, your relationship does not exist at work.

4.     Along those lines, don’t share your relationship on social media…at least until you think it’s serious and have made it official at work (more on that next).  It doesn’t matter if your account is private. Six degrees of separation is real, and Murphy’s Law always applies. Chances are, if you put it out there, the information will circle back to exactly the person you wish it wouldn’t.

5.     When things get serious enough, tell your boss. If you think that conversation is awkward, you’re absolutely right, but it’s essential. Being upfront will reinforce your trustworthiness, but it is also the responsible thing to do. Your supervisor will eventually find out, and believe me when I say they should not hear about it through the office rumor mill.

6.     Always remember that your job and reputation are at stake.  Seems intense, right? Well, it should. While at first the illicit factor will thrill, the stress of a romantic relationship at work has a way of dampening flames, so don’t enter into one lightly. If things don’t work out, be prepared to leave your job (as my friend did) and know that, no matter what happens, you absolutely must be civil. The only thing bad behavior toward your ex is going to do is reflect poorly on you.

Have you ever been part of or affected by an office romance that ended happily ever after or went south? Tell me about it in the comments below!