To Date Or Not To Date? 5 Basic Rules of Office Romance

Originally posted on Thirty On Tap on June 21, 2016

We’ve all heard the cliché warnings – don’t get your honey where you make your money, don’t sh*t where you eat, and don’t mix work and play. We’ve received our fair share of ominous cautionary tales about preferential privilege and office reputations garnered through sleeping with the boss. The dreaded thought of job loss haunts every employee who has ever toyed with the idea of dating a co-worker. Office romance often seems frowned upon, as dating in the workplace has regularly resulted in consequences for at least one of the so called “offenders”.

But despite all the red flags surrounding dating at work, it can actually make a lot of sense, considering we spend nearly 30% of our time at our jobs. The remainder of our time is shared between sleeping, eating, outside hobbies, and family and friends. When it comes down to it, there is very little time left over for dating. Not to mention, aside from the bar scene and dating apps, it can be extremely hard to meet people.

The bar scene is often a somewhat hazy experience, as alcohol has the ability to play mind tricks on us, and on a dating app, users are limited to 140 characters to define their life narrative. Yet at work, we’re often surrounded by intelligent, driven, like-minded people who understand any worries or office stress that we’re experiencing. We’re able to connect through shared experiences and jump past the awkward phase of starting a conversation with strangers who usually only introduce themselves by first name.

When it comes down to it, office romances shouldn’t be all that surprising, nor should they immediately elicit feelings of panic, judgment, and derision. With that said, there are some basic rules to follow should you ever decide to jump from your desk and into a relationship with a colleague:

Do Not Date Your Boss

If there is one person you should absolutely avoid starting an office romance with, it’s your boss. As cliché as it sounds, this is a line that should never be crossed. Starting and maintaining a relationship at work can be difficult enough as is, without the added element of having to directly report to that person. The risk is hardly worth the reward as your boss has the ability to make direct decisions about your salary, employment status, and professional advancement. If you cannot be persuaded otherwise and do decide to date your boss, avoid favoritism and punishment by arranging to change supervisors, and consider involving your HR department in a discreet and proactive manner.

Avoid Displaying Physical Affection At The Office

Even if your relationship is public knowledge, it is best to keep the physical elements of it confined to the bedroom, or backseat, or essentially anywhere else that is not your desk space. Avoid kissing, hugging, hand holding, leering, or anything else sexual in nature. Not only will it keep the office gossip to a minimum, it’ll also help both of you to avoid any impression of unprofessionalism. You want to be taken seriously at work and flaunting your relationship will only distract from that.

Know That Making Your Relationship Public Can Be A Risk

If your relationship cannot be kept secret and people start to find out or make insinuations, it is best to be upfront about it with your colleagues, boss, and HR department. If your company has a policy forbidding office relationships, you may consider reevaluating whether or not you want to continue the relationship with the possibility of career consequences. Usually your best bet is to keep your romance under wraps for as long as possible. Don’t tell your colleagues and avoid posting about it on social media sites. The more you are able to separate your personal life from your professional life, the better your chance of making your relationship work.

Make Sure You Set Rules From The Beginning

This one is simple. To avoid roadblocks down the road, sit down and discuss how you’ll conduct yourselves, any hesitancies or concerns either of you might have, how they should be handled, and what will happen if one of you ends up wanting out of the relationship. Because let’s be real, that is a very likely possibility. Which leads to my final piece of advice…

If It Ends, Be Professional

Bottom line, relationships end more often than they last. In most instances, you can cut your ex out of your life entirely, especially if the relationship didn’t end well. Yet, when you date someone at work, you must accept the fact that you will still have to see and interact with this person (bearing in mind that they know full well what you look like in your birthday suit). You can’t air your negative feelings of them at work, as that will come off as petty. And it goes without saying, bathroom stall cry-fests are a definite no-no. All of this can be perceived by others as negatively affecting your work. So if it ends, be professional. Be a grown up. And by that, I mean no shouting matches or staplers being thrown at each other’s heads.

When it comes down to it, the person you date should also be your friend. Treat one another with respect and develop your friendship as well as your romantic relationship. The chance of it lasting will be greater. And who knows, you may even end up with something lasting, loving, and worth all the trials, errors, and disagreements that come with any relationship.

It’s okay to be afraid, but sometimes it is worth the risk. So take the leap! You never know what’s on the other side unless you try.

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