Office romances are bound to happen. Statistics found online report that at least 40 percent of us have had an office affair. After all, you spend more time with colleagues than anyone else. You know you’re considering it because you’ve been secretly admiring him or her at the office. You can list all the attributes you find appealing — their laugh, their style of dress, the fact that they just “get” your quirky sense of humor.
It’s been difficult to keep your interest secret from them or from your co-workers. But…do they feel the same way about you? How do you find out? It can be exciting to have an office romance and yet it’s also fraught with potential complications. Just think what it might be like to spend all your waking hours working side-by-side with someone and then spending off work time as well. You can see where it might be a recipe for disaster!
Do office romances really work out? CareerBuilder.com did a survey of 7,000 respondents and 31 percent said their office romance led them to the altar. However, if it doesn’t work out, what will your life be like? Will you spend your working life trying to avoid walking by their office or hanging out at the water cooler? Or, heaven forbid…what if your former love interest shows up at the office holiday party with their new love interest? This is tricky stuff!
Before you proceed any further, here are three do’s and don’ts to consider.
DON’T immediately announce your relationship online.
When you’re in love, it can be tempting to share your excitement with the whole world, or at least the Facebook and Twitter universe. However, it may be something you regret later if the office romance turns out badly. Have an agreement with your significant other about when and how to let others know. It’s an important part of dating to learn to communicate your concerns in an effective and mature manner. Talk about this issue. What are the important issues for each of you? You may have differing ideas, so hear each other out and be willing to compromise before proceeding.
DO be discreet.
No one wants to hear the explicit details of your dates, flirtatious conversations or see over-the-top PDAs (public displays of affection). And if you’re having a disagreement, take it outside with a quick walk and talk. Or better yet, agree to resolve it after work. Much of this will be determined by the kind of office culture you both work in. Again, discuss what you’re comfortable with (and what you’re not!) Your office mates will know about your relationship sooner or later, and probably much sooner than you think. Your professional behavior can help smooth the waters if there’s gossip.
DON’T ignore your company’s policies.
Make sure you read them. They’re in place for a reason. Each company is different. You may be required to disclose your relationship, which can be a good way to build your growing connection by discussing how to address these concerns. There could be claims of favoritism, discrimination or harassment. There are no specific laws that prevent office dating, but it’s likely that your company has its own policy. It’s often frowned upon due to issues of confidentiality, or that it can cause gossip and distraction in the office. If your company has a Human Resources department, check in with them once your relationship gets serious.
DO establish some rules.
It’s much easier to do this at the beginning of a relationship than when it’s over. You’ll need to have a conversation about how you’ll conduct yourselves and whether to keep it a secret. Most important, relationships don’t always have happy endings. What will you do if you break up? Some couples who have ended their work romance have agreed to change departments or leave the company entirely. Others have found that simply choosing to “keep it professional” after a break-up works for them. There are lots of options and only the two of you can figure out what feels comfortable.
DON’T use the company email to flirt.
It’s tempting to fire off that quick note of affection to your significant other. It’s equally easy to put the wrong name in the “to” column and hit “send.” Don’t risk inadvertently sending your sexy love note to your boss or another co-worker. Or what if that email was inadvertently shared? You have only to check online to see a huge number of “embarrassing emails that went viral!” You may only have to imagine your inappropriate email spread across social media to quickly curtail the urge to hit send! Is it worth the possibility of ruining your professional image, plus getting into trouble with Human Resources? Try using authentic, in-person friendliness and channel self-confidence instead.