Dating At The Office?

Nicole Williams
Posted: 12/16/2008

We don’t all come to work with visions of hearts and flowers—but it sometimes happens anyway. Work is where we spend our days, learn more about ourselves and build our networks. Why would dating be excluded? That said, deciding whether to date a coworker or figuring out how to handle an in-office relationship is extremely personal. There are no right answers. There may, however, be a company policy. Legislation doesn’t regulate matters of the heart, but you definitely want to understand the potential implications of a relationship with a co-worker. Find out how your organization and human resources views at-work relationships, and start your decision-making process from there. The following strategy can help you sort through both the emotions and the day-to-day realities of dating at work.

Know what your intentions are. No shame here, it’s just important to acknowledge your purpose. The parameters of the relationship and the level of risk are directly proportional to your intention. Are you having a one-nighter with the company CEO to leverage a promotion? (High risk). Are you wildly infatuated with the boss you barely know? (Medium risk). Or have you developed a mutually supportive relationship with a coworker you’ve come to trust and respect? (Low risk).

‘Fess up. If you think you can hide your affair from your coworkers, think again. I’ve worked with more than a few "undeclared" couples who thought they had the office duped. Note: Do not leave for vacation at exactly the same time, both return with a tan and outright refuse to know anything about each other’s whereabouts. Attempts to keep the relationship a secret usually fail and invite interest, speculation and gossip.

And make sure to tell your boss first. This might sound a little goodie-two-shoes, but my suggestion is to share your relationship with your boss first. Not in an, "I’d like your permission" or parental kind of way, but rather in a "We’ve thought about this relationship responsibly and care about your business and our careers" kind of way. Inevitably your boss will find out anyway, and you want him or her to be confident you will behave in a professional, ethical and responsible manner. Your boss can even be an ally to help create personal and professional boundaries.

Nix the public displays of affection (PDA). Blatant and indiscreet PDA is difficult to stomach at the best of times, but most certainly restrain yourself at the office. No one wants to watch you make out in the office corridor.

Think before you share. If you’ve decided to date a colleague, your days of coming in to work to gossip about last night’s Tantric sex session or wicked fight are over. Your new lover is someone else’s co-worker or boss. Create some ground rules as a couple about sharing personal information with your professional peers and don’t let your relationship play out over the office e-mail. Your on-site tech support might be enjoying your new boyfriend’s racy messages as much as you are.

Nicole Williams
Posted: 12/16/2008

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