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Business with Pleasure: Love in the Office

An office romance brews between two people

Since people spend most of their waking hours at work, sparks are sure to fly between coworkers every now and then. And you can bet that with Valentine’s Day on the way, a lot of singles are walking around the office with targets painted on their backs just begging for the pluck of Cupid’s bow.

An office romance isn’t as taboo as it once was. In fact, a survey conducted by a popular career website showed that 38% of respondents have dated a coworker at some point – and a third of those people actually ended up tying the knot. So does this mean that dating a coworker in this day and age is acceptable? Not necessarily. So take it slow, Romeo. And cool your jets, Juliet.

Stay in your league

The most taboo type of office romance is still the classic supervisor-subordinate affair. Organizations sometimes fear this type of relationship so much that they have strict policies against them, particularly because they can lead to sexual harassment claims. Company policies aside, there are good reasons for employees to be apprehensive about dating the boss, even if the attraction is mutual and innocent. First, you can never be sure how the person will react if the relationship ends. A scorned supervisor could make daily life very difficult for a well-meaning subordinate – and vice versa. Either way, you’re playing catch with Pandora’s box, and the latch is loose. The second major concern is incurring the wrath of your coworkers. Trained ninjas couldn’t hide an office romance, especially when it’s in the chain of authority. It wouldn’t be long before accusations abound about favouritism and professional suppression – none of which makes for a warm and cuddly workplace.

If you’re going to date, be safe

But what if you enter an office romance with someone who’s at the same level in your organization, or even someone who’s in a completely different department? The truth is that some organizations frown on any romantic relationship between colleagues regardless of position or department, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can stop you. Others may choose to tolerate it, but expect that you and your partner will continue to behave professionally regardless of what’s happening in your personal lives. If you find yourself in this situation, here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Don’t deny it

    As mentioned above, you’ll likely never be able to hide your office romance from your coworkers indefinitely, so it’s best not to try. Being open and honest is the best intra-office relationship policy.

  • PDA? No way!

    Public displays of affection are the perfect way to make everyone in your office uncomfortable. Plus, it’s just not professional. Ixnay the PDA if you don’t want to endanger your objay. This includes sweet nothings, baby talk, and flirtatious emails (and remember, the company has access to those – it’s actually their property).

  • Fools rush in

    If you and a coworker decide to start going out, make sure you’re both on the same page. One of you may feel more intensely than the other, and that could lead to awkward moments at the office. It’s best if you are both cautious and discuss how you’ll act at work – even going so far as to talk about the possibility of the relationship not working out.

The power of a cold shower

Whatever you do, remember that even if there’s no ostensible stigma around dating a coworker at your organization, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an underlying one. Like relationships, office politics are complex and nuanced. As lovesick as someone may make you feel, remember that you’re not a bird or a bee – you’re a person who needs to earn a living. So you have to ask yourself, is his or her love worth the risk?

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