Work is a place that a lot of adults spend the majority of their time. For this reason, it’s no surprise that an annual survey by CareerBuilder, found that 40% of people have dated a work colleague at some point. It’s easy to fall for a work colleague, as you’re likely to have common interests and goals, after all. This could create a foundation for a spark-filled romance.
With that being said, it isn’t a crime to have a love interest at work, but it is important to understand the rules around it. This is especially true as a workplace romance doesn’t always have a blissful ending. Some even lead to lawsuits or a drop in workplace productivity. On the brighter side, when boundaries are created and professional communication is maintained, it is possible to successfully date in the workplace!
Establish a Reason
The first thing you should do to successfully navigate a workplace romance is to establish the reason for the relationship. Try and uncover the motivations behind the person pursuing you (or who you personally are pursuing) so that you know the risks you’re taking are worthwhile. For instance, a colleague could be pursuing you for the purpose of advancing their career. This means you’d be risking your reputation and potentially have to put up with office gossip for someone with bad intentions.
If you’re sure their intentions are pure, defining the nature of your relationships and ensuring that both of you consent to it is necessary. Doing so will ensure you’re on the same page moving forward. If you feel you’re being pressured or coerced into a relationship, set boundaries and ensure they’re reinforced — if lines are crossed, address the issue with HR immediately!
Find Out Your Workplace Policy
Before engaging in any kind of workplace romance, you should find out what the rules in your place of employment are. Every business has different policies when it comes to dating a work colleague, so find out what they are before proceeding.
To find out this information, speak with your HR manager, as they should offer a safe space for you to discuss such matters. They should also be able to provide practical advice regarding protecting your professional image and informing superiors, in case things go south.
An additional piece of advice is to learn about the policies and rules around disclosure. This could mean not sharing confidential information with your partner or breaching work confidences outside of the office. It can be easy to do as couples often talk and share intimate details of their day with one another. However, to avoid breaking workplace rules and jeopardizing your job, try and refrain from doing so.
When you have a workplace romance, a hurdle you’ll have to face is disclosing the news to co-workers. While you don’t have to make a public announcement in the office and inform everyone, there may be key people you have to tell. Think about how you’re going to deal with things like workplace gossip or people criticizing you because of your relationship, especially if you’re entering a relationship with a superior.
Bear in mind that different generations have different rules and views about what they see as acceptable in the workplace. Being part of a multigenerational workforce means that you may have to accept the different opinions people may have about your relationship. The goal should be to not take anything personally. Instead, focus on doing your job and keeping the relationship separate from work as much as possible.
Create Healthy Boundaries
Creating healthy boundaries is important when dating a colleague at work. Once you’re both well-informed about office policies and guidelines, set boundaries of your own.
An example of a boundary could be refraining from things like kissing and holding hands in the office. This can make others uncomfortable and isn’t appropriate behavior for a workplace. As tempting as it may be, save your affection for after hours and off work premises. If you’ll be attending work events together, you can engage but be professional. Remember to use the right etiquette for workplace events such as upholding your office culture and behaving as though you’re in a business setting.
Focus on Your Goals
Before you started a romantic relationship at work, it’s likely you had personal goals you wanted to achieve. It could be anything from getting a promotion to developing your skills. If you’re a woman in business, especially, focusing on your goals is important as you may have to work harder to ensure you meet your targets.
Remember to keep work and romance separate so that you aren’t distracted from achieving those goals. One way to do this would be for you to maintain and establish other healthy work relationships outside of just romantic ones. This means participating in team building activities and events as well as focusing on your personal development. Also, stay true to who you are and don’t behave in ways you wouldn’t usually just to appease your partner.
Be Professional if the Relationship Ends
Although it would be nice if all work romances had a fairytale ending, it isn’t always the case. In light of this, if your relationship does eventually come to an end, try and keep it professional. It can be incredibly challenging to still have to work with someone you’re no longer in a relationship with. Especially if the relationship ended badly. However, keeping your ethics intact and not allowing it to affect your ability to deliver quality work is essential. If your ex is threatening or harassing you in the workplace, speak to HR about it to see how they can intervene. They should be well-equipped in dealing with workplace conflict and help you find a tangible solution.
Working with a significant other is a dream come true for some, while it can prove tedious for others. Just be sure that if you do decide to engage in work romance, you follow the right protocol and learn to separate work from pleasure.
This guest post was authored by Brooke Faulkner
Brooke Faulkner is a writer, mom and adventurer in the Pacific Northwest. She spends her days pondering what makes a good leader. And then dreaming up ways to teach these virtues to her sons, without getting groans and eye rolls in response.