Dating a co-worker is a unique experience and takes a lot of working on. Although it is more common than you think, office romance is often considered a risk when weighing up the potential professional repercussions. Don’t get me wrong, there are many positives to dating a colleague: you get to see them every day and the beginning stage is usually the most exciting.
However, there are three ways an office romance can end: either it all goes swimmingly well, the break up gets bitter, or the two of you are mature enough to have an amicable break up and can go your separate ways with dignity.
Regardless of how the relationship starts, it is usually fun and exhilarating to begin with – the forbidden fruit always tastes sweeter (or seemingly so). You may not start out with any serious intentions or plans for the future, but let’s get this clear before we dive in; there is a big difference between a hook up and a relationship, every couple is different and will deal with professional situations accordingly.
Why office romance is a challenge
In the spirit of being candid, I will divulge a little bit from my own experience of dating a colleague. I had been in my current role for a few months, my love life was non-existent and I wasn’t specifically looking for anything, but I knew I was ready to meet someone new. It all started with a night out *shock*. The flirtation was followed by a series of text messages, and before we knew it we were dating.
We kept the relationship between ourselves at first but when we got a little more serious, I decided to talk to my boss, not knowing my company’s policy on office relationships. In all honesty, I wouldn’t recommend this unless you feel particularly comfortable with talking to your manager about such a personal and potentially embarrassing subject. A few months had passed and even though we were both happy, we bickered a lot about small silly things. This seemed like harmless banter between the two of us in the beginning, however during my appraisal, I had the most uncomfortable conversation of my life to date. My manager at the time explained that our bickering was making others feel uneasy and asked me to address it with my partner. I felt so humiliated and it confirmed what I had suspected for a while, everyone was talking about our relationship.
Eventually we broke up, and thinking that we could be amicable, I went on with my daily life as normal. This was not the hardest break up of my life but things were made more complicated with seeing each other every day. Eventually I had to block him on social media to get that distance that regular couples would get after ending a relationship. Months later, we have both moved on. So, with all this said and done, please read on to discover my pointers for handling an office romance.
Prepare to hear gossip about you
Nobody likes to be talked about, especially when the speculation is centred around the intimate details of your personal life. This is just something that you have to get used to, if you and your partner have a solid bond then to hell with everyone else. My advice would be to keep your relationship under wraps until the both of you have established what you are and what you want from the relationship.
Sometimes when a couple goes public too early, things can take a turn. Especially in a professional environment where office politics can play an important part on the relationship or how other people view you as an individual. Don’t confide in your colleagues. They may be the only people who know yourself and your partner, but opening that can of worms gives the opportunity for talk. If you need advice, pick up the phone and call a friend.
Find out your rights
Every employer will have a different policy on romances at work. I spoke to a manager as I was lucky enough to feel comfortable with the conversation. You may find a HR handbook or just speak with a trusted colleague. You will want to educate yourself if there are any rules about this, especially if things have passed the initial dating stage. If you plan on going the distance with this person, it’s best to be clued up.
Put your career first
This should be a given, but it’s easy to lose sight of where you are when wrapped up in your relationship. If ever a situation arises where you would have to choose between your career and your partner, what do you think your other half would do? It’s easy to give up a level of professionalism when having a romance with someone in the office but the best relationships will work when you both have established an office mode and a home mode, without mixing the two. It’s easy to become engrossed with work life when your partner is also there but don’t lose sight of your long-term goals – if you have the real deal, your partner will support you.
Have an exit plan
As twisted as it sounds – you should have a contingency plan if things go sour. Sometimes it’s hard to put your feelings to the side, but it’s the mature thing to do. You will have a better perspective while you are still in a calm and happy place. Everyone deals with break ups differently and if dating a co-worker doesn’t work out – the reality is that you will have to see them every day unless someone gets fired or quits. This is one that that I personally wish I had discussed with my ex, although it did cross my mind, I didn’t want to put a negative spin on our relationship before it even had a chance. Learn from my experience and set the ground rules.
Leave your emotions at the door
Your colleagues do not want to know about the fight you had at last Sunday’s barbeque. As a general rule, nobody else should be able to tell when you’ve had an argument, or see any PDA for that matter. It’s just unprofessional and will lead to you both having a bad reputation. As I have already mentioned, you don’t want your relationship affecting work affairs. You may be a jealous person, which doesn’t mix well with relationships at work. Remember that your partner will be friendly to others but they are dating YOU, so keep it together. And if there are serious conversations to be had, do it off the clock – this also goes for flirtatious squabbling which I found out the hard way.
Don’t alienate yourself
If you are serious about your partner, you will want to hear from them all day, every day. But don’t reserve your lunch breaks exclusively for dates. You want to still maintain the friendships with other co-workers that you have already established. It’s healthy to have some distance and separation – and if you break up, the office can become a very lonely place, so keep your friends close. Seeing your partner every day can give the false impression that your relationship is moving quicker than it is, which is why you need personal space. It’s easy to get wrapped up if you feel like you are moving very quickly, and I definitely speak from experience with this one.
If you are thinking about getting into a work romance or are already in one, you should take things slowly and get to know each other over time – neither of you are going anywhere so why rush? It’s always better to figure out what your relationship is before going public. Dating at work can put you in some testing situations and it is good to have a solid bond, so make sure you do things properly – a lot is at risk.
I’ve already shared my experience with you, and there were things I wish I knew before diving into an office romance. One thing I will leave you with is to ask yourself, if you had met outside of your job, would you give this person the time of day? Or is it purely convenience that motivates you? If you answer is the latter, I would seriously urge you to call it a day as a workplace relationship holds too much at stake for just convenience. If you picked the first option, you may seriously have a shot at love and I would encourage you to go for it. Just remember to stay professional and don’t blur the lines between your career and your relationship – let them coexist separately.