10 rules if you're going to have an office romance
Many of us have experienced love in the workplace. But much can go wrong if you don't know what you are doing.
Published 25/06/2014 | 02:30
"If an office is a good enough place to spend the majority of your precious days, it must be a good enough place to find a mate," writes Stephanie Losee in her book, Office Mate: Your Employee Handbook for Romance on the Job.
She points out that, in an age when society is atomising and we spend less and less time with friends, work is one of the few places in which we socialise on a day-to-day basis – and, thus, gain an insight into what a potential romantic interest is 'really ' like. "Your colleagues", she claims, "often know more details about your day life than your family does."
But how to navigate this relationship minefield without harming your career or suffering serious emotional damage? Read on to find out.
1: Don't date your boss or subordinate
Because of the power imbalance built into the relationship, the risks of things going wrong are high. More than that, it can impact on your wider professional standing. Your boss/partner may scrupulously avoid showing you preferential treatment – but subconsciously he or she will want you to do well, and that is bound to fog up their judgement.
2: Don't enter a relationship for career reasons
We're not suggesting you're the sort to sleep your way to the top – or even sleep your way into a corner office and plumb parking space. Still, there are people who may have that very goal in mind. If you suspect an ulterior motive, stay clear – the transactional nature of the dynamic between the two of you will cause problems later on.
3: Keep it low key
The key to a successful office relationship is decorum. Outside of work, you may carry on like love canaries direct from Cringe City. On company time, public displays of affection are to be avoided, as they will prompt eye-rolling and head-shaking – and you will look unprofessional.
4: Stay schtum
Actually, when you think about it, there's no need to advertise your relationship at all. In a big organisation, colleagues have no cause to know about your personal life – so why tell them? Inevitably you will want to share your happy news with one or two co-workers, but choose wisely.
5: Be careful with your email
Speaking of email ... take care when sending a flirtatious message to your partner. It is all too easy to press 'reply all', so that your humiliating missive ends up in the inbox of the entire HR and accountant departments. Embarrassing and, again, it demonstrates a lack of professional nous.
6: Go in to it with your eyes open
The relationship may work out. Or it might go terribly wrong – be aware of this and plan for the worst-case scenario. Sit down and have a serious conversation, so that, should the worst come to pass, you can both conduct yourself like grown-ups.
7: Don't make a habit of it
If you find yourself hooking up with a conveyor belt of colleagues, you might want to think about widening your 'dating pool'. People will talk (it's what people do) – and your career may suffer.
8: What do you have In common – besides work?
You've bonded over late nights and grueling deadlines. But once that big contract is in the bank, what is keeping you together? It's the great contradiction of workplace friendship – we foster super-intense relationships with individuals with whom we might otherwise assiduously avoid. Broaden the basis of your romance so that it isn't just an office thing.
9: Stay friends with other colleagues also
Once you've bagged a significant other, you might be tempted to conclude that you no longer need to be friendly with the rest of your work-floor. You're happily partnered off – does anything else matter?
"Don't change your behaviour around the office gang just because you're in a relationship," warns Stephanie Losee in her book.
10: Is there a policy on workplace relationships?
Some companies frown on intra-office love, others could not give a hoot. Such policies may be informal rather than explicit: ask around and make sure you understand what the situation is. There is no reason why dusty regulations should stop you finding love. All the same, you're better off knowing.