Tuesday 15 October 2019

Dear Mary: I fancy a colleague. Is it wise to ask her out?

An office relationship can be a minefield
An office relationship can be a minefield

Mary O’Conor

I've developed a crush on a co-worker. At first I thought it was just a physical attraction and would disappear, but the more we work together and the more I get to know her the clearer it becomes that this isn't just a physical thing.

When we're working together there's always good back and forth chat and banter which often seems flirty in nature, but I'm afraid if I ask her out things could be awkward in the office if I've misread the situation.

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To give some context, we're both on an equal standing in work - no-one is more senior or junior - and we are on the same team and as a result we see each other daily.

She's the kind of girl who gets on well with everyone and I'm concerned that what I'm perceiving as flirting is actually just her being friendly.

Is the potential awkwardness if I've misread things worth risking if I was to ask her out, or are workplace romances something that people should steer clear of?

Mary replies: This question comes up fairly regularly but as we spend at least one third of our day at work it is worthwhile looking at the whole question of workplace romances again.

The very first thing that you should do is ascertain through judicial questioning, and not necessarily of the girl in question but of colleagues, as to whether she is in a relationship or not.

This might seem a very obvious point but it is something that people overlook at times. No ring doesn't necessarily mean no significant other!

But the really big problem is what to do if a relationship develops.

First, do you let colleagues know what is going on, or is it to be kept a secret?

But more importantly, what happens if and when it doesn't work out?

This can be particularly difficult, especially if it finishes and you are not on good terms.

There wouldn't be much flirty banter going on then and it could be very awkward for quite a while. And it makes it difficult for colleagues also - assuming they knew that there was a relationship - to try to keep things on an even keel.

Having said all of that I know couples who met at work and went on to get married, and in some cases they are still together. But it can be a minefield with the danger of one or other parties being hurt, and as these things usually go it ends up that the whole office knows the story - or at least some version of it.

My brothers and their friends had a pact when they were teenagers that they couldn't date any of their friends' sisters. They maintained that it would be great if everything worked out but how would it affect their friendship if somebody's sister was hurt by one of them, or if their hearts were broken by one of the sisters? They kept to this plan and are all still friends.

This is somewhat similar to a work situation so be sure to give it a lot of thought before you make a move.

If, however, you find the pull of this girl to be so strong that you cannot resist and you are sure she is not already in a relationship, then go for it.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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