Office relationships are usually frowned upon in most workplaces, with good reason. If an office romance goes awry and the two parties involved continue to work together, it is easy for the tension between them to spread to their colleagues, who could take sides, resulting in low employee productivity due to poor working environment and relationships. Sometimes when the relationships work, the employees may be so wrapped up in each other and neglect their work. They may also lead to tricky situations in cases where one may be in a relationship with his or her superior. Termination of such a relationship may lead to one person losing his or her job.
Because people spend a lot of time at the office, it is not surprising that a romance springs up at one time or the other. Nonetheless, are work romances ever appropriate? If you inevitably get involved with a colleague, there are things you need to consider.
First, ensure that you are aware of your company’s policy on dating colleagues. If the company has a policy against this, it is best to avoid pursuing that relationship. Consider the pros and cons before making a decision. It may seem like a good idea now but is it in the long run? How much are you and your partner willing to stake for the relationship? Are you willing to risk getting fired over a romance? Or are you willing to quit or look for a job elsewhere if the relationship develops into something serious?
If dating co-workers is indeed acceptable at your workplace, good for you. This however does not mean that you should throw all caution to the wind. Consider the nature of the relationship you’re getting into. Is it a fling or are you both willing to pursue a serious relationship? If it is a fling, expect repercussions once the lust is satiated. It may lead to a great deal of awkwardness making your working environment rather unpleasant.
If you and your colleague have agreed to pursue a relationship, begin by discussing how it will change things. For instance, are you going to be open about your relationship at work? Pursuing a romantic relationship with someone you work closely with, especially if you happen to be in the same department, has its challenges. Most couples will decide to keep the relationship a secret to avoid raising eyebrows. At times, the pressure of this secrecy may eventually take a toll on the relationship or work or both.
If you decide to be open about it, it’s important to discuss the nature of your relationship while you are at the workplace. How much public display of affection (PDA) is appropriate? Will you kiss, hug or call each other pet names at work? It is better to keep these to a minimum as you should the time you spend together at the office to maintain your professional image. When dealing with your partner, keep your office door open. Let it be seen by your bosses and co-workers that you are getting your work done and that your relationship does not affect your performance. In fact, spending too much time together, when you already work together may put a strain on your relationship. Find a way to give each other space for alone time to avoid feelings of suffocation and loss of personal identity. If you happen to be dating your boss or supervisor (which is not advisable), expect some hostility from your colleagues, as favouritism is an issue that will come up every so often.
How are you going to deal with office gossip? Every office has its own rumour mills and gossips. Deciding to be open about your relationship is a sure way to spur gossip. It’s important for you and your colleague to be aware of this fact. Discuss how you will both deal with gossip and snide comments from workmates regarding your relationship.
Make an effort to build a friendship first before diving into a relationship. It will help put a solid foundation for your relationship and help if your relationship doesn’t work out. Start by meeting after work for coffee or a drink to get to know each other beyond work confines, as time spent together at work doesn’t count for much. Have a conversation about anything besides work and find out if you have anything else in common.
Not all relationships work out. Your office romance may also not go as planned. This is never easy, considering the fact that you may have to see your ex almost every day, or your ex may begin dating someone else while you still work together. How you deal with this is very important. Expect gossip, especially if you were open about your relationship. Acknowledge the fact that it will be difficult to work with someone you have been involved with romantically but try your best to keep things as professional as possible. Keep the details of your relationship and whatever led to the break-up as discreet as possible. Unfortunately, some office romances result in one person leaving their job. Be ready for this if it happens.
Published in January 2012