A Dip in the Office Pool: Dating at Work

So you suddenly find yourself with a burning attraction for that new addition to the Receivables department. You’re thinking, “Where’s the harm in asking her out? I’m sure we could keep things totally professional.” Well before you go down that road, there are definitely some things to keep in mind. Assuming she’s into it (watch that sexual harassment), this could either be a great match or the biggest mistake of your career.

The reality of the modern office is that people are working more hours and getting married later in life. This means that there are probably more singles of dating age at your office now than ever before. With more time spent at work, people also tend form social networks that get together outside the office walls. This situation creates an ideal setting for the full range of human attraction from copy room hook-ups, to trade show infidelity, to long term dating.

Attitudes are changing. While most would agree that relationships between employees at different levels of the company can be a bad career move, people seem to be becoming more tolerant of their coworkers shacking up – as long as it doesn’t interfere with their job performance. A recent survey of 610 working men and women by vaultreports.com showed that 58% of people claimed to have had a workplace relationship and a surprising 23% admitted to having ‘relations’ on office property.

The Good Things

Aside from all the warm and fuzzy things that accompany a new love interest, there are a few benefits to office dating:

  • You most likely share some of the same interests.
  • You know the person beforehand.
  • You can save some of the time, effort and cash required by the conventional dating scene.

The Not So Good Things

  • Don’t assume that you’ll be able to keep it a secret. Chances are, one of you will confide in the wrong person or you’ll be seen in public together.
  • You may find that your relationship is the center of office gossip until something more interesting comes up.
  • The conflicting roles of your personal and professional relationship can cause strain in both areas of your life. You may find that you too often discuss work at home and vice versa.
  • If you work relatively closely during the day, you could be spending almost all of your time together. One of you may begin to feel smothered.
  • Spending eight hours a day pretending there’s no feelings between you (definitely necessary for the sake of professionalism) can eventually lead you right there.
  • Choose your targets carefully. After too many office relationships, you could end up with a pretty unpleasant new nickname.
  • Remember that most of these potential problems are a greater concern at smaller companies.

I Really Like You, But…

The real problems tend to start when someone calls the whole thing off. There are a few things that can happen after a break-up:

  • Actions of revenge.
  • The possibility of a sexual harassment suit.
  • People are often distracted at work directly after a break-up. This problem is magnified when you’ve got a walking reminder just down the hall.
  • There is often no way to get the time and space apart from each other that’s required after a break-up.

Of course, the official company standpoint is to usually discourage relationships at work, but there are a lot of things your boss would prefer you didn’t do. In our litigious society, your company has a lot to worry about if things go sour between you. Some companies go as far as to have you sign a “love contract” that clearly indicates your mutual consent.

So in the end, you should talk to each other and learn what kind of relationship you’re both comfortable with. Find out if your company has a written or unwritten policy about this. If you can avoid the pitfalls and successfully separate your personal and professional lives, you might find exactly what you’re looking for just down the hall.

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