How to Handle an Office Romance
Workplace romances can lead to long-term relationships — and even marriage — but they also can also result in uncomfortable situations for the people involved in the relationship, as well as their co-workers.
In the worst case scenario, intertwining business and pleasure could result in an unplanned, unwanted job search — people can get fired due to workplace relationships or be forced to resign because of a relationship gone wrong.
That said, office romances do happen. (Just ask Bill and Melinda Gates, who met on the job.) Given how much time people spend at work, it's not so surprising that people may develop crushes or fall in love.
If your new relationship involves a co-worker, make sure your office romance does not interfere with your career — or your significant other's! Here are our best tips, with input from Peter Handal, the president, CEO, and chairman of Dale Carnegie Training.
Tips for Handling an Office Romance
Be very, very certain. Before entering into a relationship, make sure it's the real deal. Are you bonding over an intense project requiring late night at work or shared frustration at a boss, or do you have a connection that extends beyond the office? Make sure you know the answer to that question before beginning a romantic relationship.
Check the company's policies. Once you're in a relationship with a colleague — or, ideally, before the relationship begins — read up on the company policies about dating co-workers. Many companies large and small have hard and fast rules against relationships developing between co-workers. If it is against the rules, you have to ask yourself: "Is it worth it?" And, if relationships are allowed, be discreet and prepare for any consequences. Depending on the company, your human resources department may need you to sign a contract, inform managers or co-workers, or follow other guidelines or rules.
Maintain decorum and professionalism. Don't let a romantic relationship affect the quality and efficiency of your work. Bottom line: You don't have to keep your relationship a secret, but you don't want to have it so on display that it makes your colleagues uncomfortable. Plus, if there is evidence that an office romance is affecting work, one or both of you may be asked to end your romance or, worse yet, find another job.
Beyond avoiding public displays of affection at the office, also be aware that co-workers may be on the lookout for bias. You never want your co-worker to think, "Joanne is just agreeing with Jose's plan because they're dating."Avoid sitting next to each other in meetings, having lunch together daily, or acting in general as a unit. And, do not send personal emails using your work account.
Avoid dating someone in a higher or lower position. Office politics and hierarchy should be top-of-mind, particularly when it comes to office romances. Choosing an entanglement with a co-worker — especially one at a different seniority level — could dramatically affect your salary or movement within your company. Your best bet is to avoid dating people with whom you regularly work.
Save the romance for out of the office. No matter how in love you feel, there should be no public displays of affection at work. Stick to the same professional behavior with your significant other at the workplace that you would have with any other co-worker. That means no holding hands, no kissing, no affectionate nicknames, and definitely no supply closet liaisons.
Address issues after-hours. Never, ever fight or argue at work. Any personal disagreements should be dealt with outside the office.
Plan for the worst. Agree at the beginning of the relationship how you will handle a potential break up. Avoid, at all costs, a messy breakup. It isn't just you and your partner that are involved, it's your entire office and the future of the company's dating policy. And, if you do decide that one — or both — of you need to move on, do it on your terms. Start a job search before you have to and don't give your love life as a reason for leaving when you interview.
Consider leaving the company. If the relationship does get serious, one member should consider a new position outside the company.