Spring may not have sprung yet, but this is definitely the month when love and romance are in the headlines. Everything is coming up roses and chocolate–covered strawberries. Perhaps your thoughts are turning to an office romance. Maybe the co-worker in the next cubicle is beginning to look awfully attractive. Could be you’d like to strike up more than a casual friendship. If so, what should you do and how should you go about it?
There are definitely dangers and opportunities when you consider an office romance.
It is not unusual today for people to find their spouse or partner in the workplace. After all, most people spend more of their time at work than anywhere else. According to the American Management Association, almost one-half—49% to be exact—of office romances result in marriage or a significant long-term relationship. If you choose to make a romantic move, be smart and follow the rules.
Know the company policy. Some companies have strict policies against dating coworkers. Most organizations don’t want to intrude on their employees’ private lives, but the shadow of sexual harassment looms larger than ever given the “Me, Too” and “Time’s Up” movements. If ever there was any doubt, recent events have underscored the long-standing advice never to date someone who is your supervisor or someone who reports to you. If you are even thinking about it, you need to start looking for another job.
Set the ground rules early. Discuss how you plan to handle you relationship around the office, and what you will do if things don’t work out. That may sound harsh and unrealistic. It definitely requires a level of maturity and discipline that is often hard to come by. Don’t put your career on the line for the sake of an office fling that may not lead anywhere but the unemployment line.
Consider the effect on your job performance. Being in love can be distracting. If your focus at work is on the object of your affection and not on your job, you are putting your career at risk. On the other hand, job performance might just improve when you are trying to impress that other person.
Be discreet and professional. It is never a good idea to discuss your romantic relationships with coworkers so keep the details to yourself. People will talk. There is no subject more popular than office gossip. Rumors of your romance will spread faster than a forest fire.
Proceed slowly. Gradually develop your friendship. Keep your interaction casual in the beginning. If ever there was a time to be cautious, this is it. The stakes are high if an office romance is on the horizon.
Be especially careful if you are new on the job, whether you are the one who is pursuing or the one being pursued. As a new hire, you are under extra scrutiny. Your boss and co-workers will be watching you closely and observing how you conduct yourself on the job.
Be wary of email. Don’t use the office email to correspond with each other unless it is purely professional and business related. Remember that email is like the newspaper. Anyone can read it. Before you hit “send,” make doubly sure that what you are sending is all business, just in case it lands in the wrong inbox.
Steer clear of Facebook and other social media sites to post the details of your new-found love. That’s where people go first when they want to pry and spy. Posting selfies while you are out at the neighbor bar or announcing where the two of you are having dinner is a really bad idea. You won’t need to pay for a Facebook ad to boost your post.
Never ever ever get involved with someone who is married. When word gets out—and it will—that is the surest way to find yourself on the street without a job.
An office romance can be successful and lead to life-long happiness if handled correctly. The wise couple is careful that any interaction in the workplace is purely professional. It’s a matter of having your career and dating it, too.
Here’s to finding love in all the right places!
Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, professional speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-598-9812 or visit her at LydiaRamsey.com to leave a comment, ask a question or learn more about her programs and products. More business etiquette information is available in her best-selling book Manners That Sell – Adding The Polish That Builds Profits.