You’re at the starting line of your employer’s 5K run and a co-worker catches your eye. You smile at each other. Your pulse rises and you haven’t even started the race yet! But you wonder: “Am I running into the love of my life or am I heading straight into an office romance fiasco?”
Workplace romance is on the rise. It’s no wonder, when you consider how much time people spend at work—sometimes up to 12 hours a day. With 24/7 wireless work environments, sometimes you may feel that you are always “at work.” How is anyone supposed to find the time to socialize unless a little multi-tasking takes place, mixing business with pleasure?
The immersion in the college or grad-school environment where couples find each other so naturally is replaced by the immersion in another full-time environment — the office. Although the CareerBuilder’s Annual Valentine’s Day 2018 survey found office romance is at a 10-year low (36 percent of workers reporting dating a co-worker, down from 41 percent last year and 40 percent in 2008) it’s a trend not going away. Many single people feel that work is a natural place to meet new people.
If YOU have a workplace romance in the offing, do yourself a favor. Keep it in the friend zone while you weigh the pros and cons. The next step you take can make all the difference, and there’s no finish line to rush off too! Take your time.
So let’s look at the plusses and minuses of pursuing a relationship with a coworker.
Familiarity and rapport. When you spend time every day with someone, you can get acquainted with that person’s ideas, ambitions, values, preferences and habits. Before establishing a relationship, you are able to witness how he or she deals with adversity or challenge and interacts with and supports others.
Common ground. By definition, you and a person in the same field will have many similarities in terms of interests, backgrounds, education or talents. In addition, sharing colleagues and friends through work is a potential asset to your social lives.
Pleasure. If you share an occupation and workplace with your love interest, imagine how that can lighten up your daily grind!
Convenience. You have the same schedules and holidays and can even commute together.
Potential disruption. The possibilities of your work being disturbed by the emotional rollercoaster that can take you for a ride are significant. From the honeymoon phase to a possible break up, your emotions could end up all over the place.
Unknown future. If you do break up, what will working together be like in the aftermath?
Coworker issues. When you are dating a colleague, there is a real possibility that you could be subject to office gossip and jealousy. How you are regarded by your superiors and coworkers is something to think about.
Financial impact. If you choose to leave your job to continue a relationship or because of a break up, or if you lose your job due to management rules about workplace dating… there will be financial consequences.
If you are still feeling uncertain about which way to turn, there are a few more things to consider. Here are some tips for you before you take the plunge (or not).
Figure out what your employer’s policies are regarding in-house dating. Some employers have strict policies against it, while others allow it with a signed agreement in place stating that both people are engaging in a consensual relationship. This avoids the possibility of future sexual harassment charges. Some employers have a don’t ask, don’t tell philosophy. Other companies, such as Southwest Airlines and AT&T, are in favor of office couples.
Avoid supervisor-supervisee relationships. A relationship between two such employees can be construed as an abuse of power, sexual harassment, or favoritism. In such circumstances, conflicts of interest can easily arise, or be perceived by other employees as existing even if they don’t. If romance is blooming between you and a supervisor or supervisee, there may be the option of in-house adjustments to accommodate for the relationship. One of you might be able to move to another team or make another such lateral shift.
Using utmost discretion and maintaining personal and professional boundaries are a must. Going in you need to know how much, if any, of your personal/love life you are willing to divulge to your colleagues and how difficult will it be for you to maintain those boundaries.
Office romance can and does work for many people. The Obamas met on the job as young attorneys in Chicago. Bill and Melinda Gates met at a Microsoft event in 1987 when she was a marketing manager and he was the chairman.