Office Romance? What to do when you’re dating a coworker
Office Romance? What to do when you’re dating a coworker

1. Know the rules

According to a poll rolled out to HBR Ascend users, 77 percent of the users were not sure if their organization had a policy against dating coworkers. An SHRM workplace romance survey found that only 42 percent of companies have developed a formal, written, workplace romance policy. Periodic surveys by SHRM show that 99 percent of employers with romance policies in place indicate that love matches between supervisors and staff members are not allowed. Check to see if your company has an employee code of conduct, such as declaring the relationship to Human Resources (HR), that must be followed while you’re at work.

If you don’t want this to be an awkward conversation between you and HR, check your company intranet or HR manual for the relevant document.  For example, some companies have a rule that forbids two individuals in the same team, or the boss and the subordinate to be romantically involved. There may also be a clause stating that the relationship between two people does not violate the company’s sexual harassment policy and that entering into the relationship has not been made a condition or term of employment. Not treading carefully could cost you your job, so make sure you have all the information.

2. Avoid professing your love over office channels

Firms can digitally store all conversations and communications done over official channels. Avoid sending romantic messages over Slack, Skype, or other instant messengers.

3. Consider others’ perception of the relationship.

Do your best to keep the relationship private until you are ready to go public with it. Of the risks highlighted previously, it would be wise to consider the perception from others before getting too involved. Sean Horan’s research suggests that it could make you be perceived as biased, less honest, less credible, or unprofessional. Consider the risks involved before deciding whether or not to declare your relationship status with your colleagues.

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4. Don’t feed the gossip machine

By giving out too much information about your relationship, you’re only feeding the office gossip. Social networking sites may make it difficult for you to keep everything under wraps, but you don’t need to put it all out there while at work either. Avoid coming into work and leaving together every day. Don’t ignore your friends and reserve the lunch hour for just your partner.

5. Avoid Public Display of Affection

You’ve fallen in love and you want the world to know of it, but public displays of affection (PDA) at work are considered unprofessional. When you’re on the office clock, everyone is watching what you’re doing with your time. There is a time and place for everything, and the office is not the place for PDA.

Office premises includes the parking lot. Since PDA or flirting never goes unnoticed, “avoid holding hands, giving love cards at the desk, sneaking a smooch in the utility closet,” suggests Audrey Nelson, author of He Speaks, She Speaks. Such behavior can also result in other coworkers gossiping about you.

6. Don’t mix work and feelings

If you’re in a manager-subordinate relationship, try harder to keep your personal and professional lives separate. Don’t let your feelings for each other affect how you perform the job. It’s natural to fight, but if you let that affect the quality of the report you submit, you’re calling for trouble. If you’ve declared your relationship to the organization, you may even ask for a change in your reporting structure to keep things clean.

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If you’re currently deciding whether to pursue the love interest, remember that there may be times when your partner (a superior, in this case) may have to critique you in front of other coworkers. If you think you will not be able to accept critique from your love interest, avoid taking things further.


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