Romance at Work: Is It Risky Business?

Should you date someone at work?

Maybe! But it depends.

Are you a bright, career-minded woman with a job you like at a solid company? Your workplace may provide access to more like minded single men than your extracurricular activities do. This is especially true if you’re working long hours that limit social or church activities.

And the office can offer a low-pressure setting for getting to know someone compared to the dating scene. But that doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea – there are some lines you should never cross.

1. Don’t date married men. It should go without saying, but affairs ruin promising careers and personal reputations. Don’t do it. This kind of error in judgment is not easily forgotten, and repercussions can be more serious for women.

2. Count the boss out. It’s not a good idea to date your boss or anyone else who could be considered a supervisor. It creates an unhealthy power dynamic and can undermine your credibility with coworkers. You’ll be able to take full credit for what you achieve when there’s no question about influence.

3. Check the employee handbook. If your company has a formal policy against coworkers dating, honor it even if means one of you finds employment elsewhere.

Should you jump ship on a great job just because a cute guy from the office winked at you in the elevator? No, but If you’ve gotten to know someone over time and you’re both serious about moving your relationship to a romantic level, one of you should leave the company. If the romance works out, someone would have to transition anyway. If it doesn’t last, breaking the rules puts you both your jobs at risk. So it’s best to deal with it proactively.  

If your company doesn’t rule out romance, and an eligible guy comes along, here are some  guidelines I recommend.

Make it worth it. Sure, there are benefits to dating someone at work, but there are potential drawbacks too. Running into your ex-boyfriend in the elevator isn’t nearly as fun as flirting with a potential boyfriend there. Working together can put unique pressures on a dating relationship. It can also be distracting for your coworkers and some might (fairly or unfairly) take you less seriously. So don’t enter into a relationship lightly. Take time to get to know your potential beau and make sure he’s on the same page.

Keep it subtle. My friend Amanda met her husband at work, and they handled work romance about as well as I’ve ever seen it done. She and her future husband didn’t work directly together, but they interacted enough that their relationship could have been disruptive to the office. But they were careful and thoughtful. In fact they played it so cool at work that I don’t think most people knew they were even dating until they were almost ready to announce their engagement! Your office romance doesn’t have to be top secret, but it shouldn’t be played out at work either. This is especially true if you work closely with your beau.

Keep it civil. Sometimes relationships don’t work out. Only in this case, you can’t exactly walk away from a guy if you break up. You’ll still be seeing them every day, and frankly, that can be really hard. You both need to recognize this going in, and strive to treat each other honorably no matter what happens, and that includes discretion if colleagues ask about the break up. 

That’s my take on office romance, what’s yours?


Read more from Diane about romance in the life of a working woman in Work, Love, Pray.