Workplace romances can lead to long-term relationships — and even marriage — but they also can also result in uncomfortable situations for the people involved in the relationship, as well as their co-workers. In the worst case scenario, intertwining business and pleasure could result in an unplanned, unwanted job search — people can get fired due to workplace relationships or be forced to resign because of a relationship gone wrong.
That said, office romances do happen. (Just ask Bill and Melinda Gates, who met on the job.) Given how much time people spend at work, it's not so surprising that people may develop crushes or fall in love. If your new relationship involves a co-worker, make sure your office romance does not interfere with your career — or your significant other's! Here are our best tips, with input from Peter Handal, the president, CEO, and chairman of Dale Carnegie Training:
Be very, very certain
Before entering into a relationship, make sure it's the real deal. Are you bonding over an intense project requiring late night at work or shared frustration at a boss, or do you have a connection that extends beyond the office? Make sure you know the answer to that question before beginning a romantic relationship.
Check the company's policies
Once you're in a relationship with a colleague — or, ideally, before the relationship begins — read up on the company policies about dating co-workers.
It is against the rules, you have to ask yourself
Many companies large and small have hard and fast rules against relationships developing between co-workers. "Is it worth it?" And, if relationships are allowed, be discreet and prepare for any consequences. Depending on the company, your human resources department may need you to sign a contract, inform managers or co-workers, or follow other guidelines or rules.
Maintain decorum and professionalism
Don't let a romantic relationship affect the quality and efficiency of your work. Bottom line: You don't have to keep your relationship a secret, but you don't want to have it so on display that it makes your colleagues uncomfortable. Plus, if there is evidence that an office romance is affecting work, one or both of you may be asked to end your romance or, worse yet, find another job. Beyond avoiding public displays of affection at the office, also be aware that co-workers may be on the lookout for bias. You never want your co-worker to think, "Joanne is just agreeing with Jose's plan because they're dating."Avoid sitting next to each other in meetings, having lunch together daily, or acting in general as a unit. And, do not send personal emails using your work account.
Avoid dating someone in a higher or lower position
Office politics and hierarchy should be top-of-mind, particularly when it comes to office romances. Choosing an entanglement with a co-worker — especially one at a different seniority level — could dramatically affect your salary or movement within your company. Your best bet is to avoid dating people with whom you regularly work.
Save the romance for out of the office
No matter how in love you feel, there should be no public displays of affection at work. Stick to the same professional behavior with your significant other at the workplace that you would have with any other co-worker. That means no holding hands, no kissing, no affectionate nicknames, and definitely no supply closet liaisons.