Office Romance: Fine or Bad Idea?

More and more you hear about coworkers dating. For some, it’s just hard to meet new people, and after-work-socializing functions provide an easy way to do that. For others, at an after-work-event for the first time they see a relaxed, funny, or witty side of a coworker that suddenly makes that person attractive. For others, they have very specific areas of interest or expertise in both their work and personal life, are so work settings allow them to meet people with these same areas of interest. For some, they consult on many projects in and outside the company, it’s just bound to happen at some point that they meet someone they like.

Many companies have policies on office dating. Other offices have no formal policy, but an informal policy is well known and the norm there. In some offices, they “look the other way.”

While some people generally discourage such relationships, others argue that they can be conducted without difficulty; the keys to successfully managing them are maturity, common-sense, and forethought. Here are some practical questions to ask yourself and your potential coworking love interest:

Does your office have a policy on dating in the workplace, formal or informal? I knew a supervisor who told his supervisees “Go to the after work parties and enjoy yourself, but the next morning if you are the topic of office gossip because you drank too much, or went home with someone, expect to have either to have explain yourself to me or to be fired.” Some of this attitude was to protect the reputation of his department and his staff, but some of it was also to mentor his staff on professional behavior for success.

Will it impact your job performance? If the answer is a definite “No. We work in two unrelated departments and on different floors” then your supervisor has little grounds to fault you (unless there is a company policy on this). If the answer is “Maybe… We work in the same department, or on some of the same projects together…” then consider your actions carefully. Concerns from supervisors about “appropriate comportment in the workplace,” talking about work stress outside of work, discovering one of you is mismatched to that work setting or the performance expectations there, side or snide comments from coworkers… all may end up causing more stress for the two of you than you might anticipate.


As an extension to this, how will you handle discussions about work? Will you “take work home” and start complaining about office politics when you should be attending to the relationship? Will you discuss something confidential in your department, such as a mistake you are trying to avoid being pinned on your department, or a morale problem? Will this create a bind for the partner, such as if the partner works in the department looking for the cause of the mistake, or the partner is the alleged cause of the morale problem? This might place one or both of you in jeopardy with your peers and supervisors.

Last, ask all the other questions you normally ask, such as, “Can we date and leave work at the office?” “Is this the right kind of person for me?” “What do we have in common?” etc…

If you decide, after reading all the points above, that you do want to pursue a workplace romance, then here’s a few tips:

Check the company policy first, and talk to someone in HR or to a mentor in the workplace. You don’t have to name names, but you can ask about the general attitude about dating at work and learn a bit about how it is seen.

• Talk to the partner and discuss how you two will handle issues like disclosing your relationship… communicating at work… hearing a coworker say positive or negative things about the other… discussing a relationship problem. Tell as few people as possible to minimize the chance that the relationship becomes a topic of discussion or gossip.

• Avoid having personal conversations on the company’s email or phone to keep these conversations private. Better yet, avoid having them at all in the workplace, especially discussions about relationship problems, to avoid the chance that someone sees you as spending “company time to resolve personal matters.”

• Avoid public displays of affection or jealousy at work. Discuss how to deal with (and if needed later defuse) situations where “the office flirt” is communicating interest in your partner. Your partner might need to be polite about it to facilitate smooth communications at work, but may not (or may) enjoy it.

• Discuss telling your supervisors. While this may seem to be really crossing the work-and-personal-life line, let the supervisor know you’ve thought carefully about this and have decided to date, and ask for the supervisor’s advice on assuring that this personal relationship has no impact on the work environment. Ask openly whether this presents any conflict of interest in your department, and how this can be handled. For example, being willing at your supervisor’s request to step off of some project/account to avoid any appearance of a conflict, and being helpful and available to facilitate your replacement’s smooth transition onto the project/account will likely support your statement that you’ve thought about the implications of the relationship maturely.

• Discuss how you will handle the possibility of accusations of favoritism or preferential treatment. Is there someone you would consult with to avoid this? That may or may not be the supervisor, but you don’t want you supervisor caught off guard if a complaint about this is brought to the supervisor.

• Discuss how you would prefer to end things if the relationship doesn’t work. Who will be told the relationship is over, and what will they be told? Will either of you want to tell your supervisor?

• Be sure neither of you is on the rebound, and both of you are ready for a mature relationship.

Culled from

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