Dating a coworker is significantly more complex than dating a mutual friend or someone you met online. There are legal issues that need to be addressed, potential career-damaging challenges for you and your coworkers, and awkward situations that neither of you want to face. However, it can be done. Here are six dos and don’ts for dating at work to increase your chances of success.
Do: Talk about the worst-case scenario
The first few weeks of dating are fun and exciting. You can’t get enough of each other and feel like you found something perfect. The last thing you want to talk about during this time is breaking up. However, starting this conversation now can help you in case things don’t work out.
Discuss potential worst-case scenarios and how you would cope with them. What happens if the breakup is messy and you can’t stand to be in the same room together? Will you both stay with the company? This is also a great opportunity to make sure you both are serious before someone gets hurt. If the potential awkwardness of a public breakup and changes to your career aren’t worth the risk, then it might be best to take a step back. It’s easier to end a relationship after a few dates than after several months.
Don’t: Move too fast
If you’ve been working together for years, you might feel like you already know your significant other really well. However, you really only know their professional side. Take some time to get to know their personality when they’re not wearing a suit and working under the watchful eye of HR.
Consider dating casually for a longer period before committing to each other exclusively. Once you’re an official couple, don’t rush to move in with each other or hit major relationship milestones (such as meeting their parents or taking a couples vacation). While this advice applies to any couple, it’s especially true for coworkers. You may be tempted to move faster than normal because you spend so much time together already, but the fallout from a breakup will be much more devastating.
Do: Talk to your boss if things get serious
Talking to your respective managers is the workplace equivalent of making your relationship official. It’s not because your boss is overly interested in your personal life but because there could be ethical and legal ramifications of your relationship. Some companies have HR policies that require employees to disclose any in-office relationships.
This way, employees who are dating superiors can’t receive preferential treatment. There’s also a decreased likelihood that the employee will sue for workplace harassment if they’ve already signed a paper saying that the relationship was consensual. Even if you’re not dating your superior, the relationship disclosure will help the company prevent conflicts of interest in the future. This will also help you, as you won’t have to worry about people accusing you of unfair benefits from the relationship when the news eventually gets out.
Don’t: Try to hide your relationship
After disclosing your relationship with your boss and HR, you may be tempted to keep your relationship a secret in the office. Why do they need to know? Offices are hotbeds for gossip, which means people are likely to talk if you and your significant other seem too close. These rumors are likely to get out of hand the longer they have to stew.
You don’t have to make a major announcement, but it’s worth mentioning to a few people around the office that you’re together. Be clear and transparent about it, and explain that your relationship won’t affect performance. You may be the subject of office gossip for a day or two, but most people will move on when they realize there’s nothing suspicious happening.
Do: Have lives outside of the office
Make sure work isn’t the only common interest you have. Many people enjoy complaining about their managers or talking about annoying clients, but what do you talk about after you have exhausted work conversation? What will you do on dates when you’re not in the office?
By making sure you have common interests when you leave the office, you’re likely to click just as much when you’re away from your desk. Along with mutual outside interests, try to maintain your own personal friendships and interests. Some coworking couples quickly lose relationships because it’s so easy to spend time together. They might commute to and from work and then spend the evening together. It’s easy to get burnt out on one person when you spend every waking minute in the same place. By maintaining your own lives, you can enjoy some time apart and get excited to see each other when you reconnect.
Don’t: Treat the office like your dating pool
Office romances are great when two people find each other in an unexpected location. However, this doesn’t mean the office is a great place to pick up dates. Try to avoid dating another coworker if you break up with your current one. Dating multiple people in the office will give you a reputation as someone who only dates people from work or who can’t meet people outside of work. This can be distracting and limit your opportunity for advancement if everyone knows you for your dating life and no one knows you for your accomplishments.
Dating multiple coworkers can also make the workplace complicated for them. How is your ex supposed to work with your current significant other? How are your coworkers going to react when they see them? You can save yourself and your coworkers a lot of stress by keeping your dating pool outside of the office.
Navigating office romance
Once you have the technicalities of office romance figured out (like making sure you disclose your relationship and having a plan if you break up), it’s important to focus on your in-office behavior. How you act as a couple in the office can mean the difference between full corporate support and your coworkers trying to break you up. Follow these three tips to maintain a level of respect at work.
Check the PDA at the door
You might be infatuated with your significant other, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the office is. Your coworkers don’t want to see you kissing by the copier or holding hands during a meeting. As a rule of thumb, check your personal relationship in the parking lot. Once you step out of your car, you’re both coworkers and professionals. Separating your work and personal relationships will also help your careers, as you won’t get caught making dinner plans when you should be pulling reports.
Every lunch hour doesn’t have to be a date
You might be tempted to get away from your boss and coworkers every day and have a midday lunch date with your significant other. While this is great on occasion or if you’re having a bad day, making it a regular occurrence could lead to burnout. Try to change things up and get lunch with your coworkers when you want someone to eat with. This way, you can stay close to your work friends and keep up with their lives. No one wants to be the person who ditches their friends when they start dating, so set aside friend time away from your significant other.
Keep coworkers out of your personal life
You might have a few friends at work whom you enjoy gossiping or eating with at lunch. You might feel like you can tell them anything and that they’ll always be on your side. However, this doesn’t mean you should tell them everything, especially when it comes to your office relationship. Even if they want to hear how your relationship is going, talking up your new significant other or complaining about the problems you’re having could damage their careers.
If you have a messy breakup and your friends take your “side,” for example, then they could struggle to work with your ex and become disruptive to the office. This also isn’t fair to your significant other when you break up. They don’t need to feel like the entire company has turned against them and their career has come to a grinding halt just because you shared what happened with almost everyone in the office.
If you and your office crush want to start dating or maybe take your casual relationship to the next level, follow these tips to prevent each other from getting hurt or losing your jobs.