Office Romance 101: Everything You Need to Know About Dating in the Workplace
Article by Annie Karp.
Ah, young love. You lock eyes across the cubicles and (after a few drinks at happy hour) you’re official. Until you’re not.
Workplace romances are not new. They’re the story of many movies and TV shows that end happily ever after, but they can be a Human Resources nightmare. Working alongside someone you’re dating can cause issues and, potentially, liabilities for the company and both employees involved should things end poorly. Dating your boss? A huge HR no-no.
Love can bloom anywhere, though, so what do you do if a workplace romance impacts your team?
Tell HR About Your Relationship
First and foremost, HR needs to know about your relationship. They don’t need to know every detail, but they definitely need to be aware of the situation.
Is there a clause in your employee handbook about interpersonal relationships? If so, it’s time to fess up to HR. A Romance/Relationship Contract is a real thing at some companies, so you may be asked to sign a document stating you admit to the relationship and that it won’t impact your work performance.
Dating your boss can present an added plethora of issues for management, and subordinate-manager relationships need to be disclosed immediately. That, too, is the story of many movies, and they generally don’t end as happily.
Do not Do "IT" at the Office
Keep it in your pants. No, seriously. Although it may seem ultra-romantic to get-it-on on the copier, it is SO not appropriate (or hygienic, but that’s an entirely different issue). These days, offices tend to have cameras in a lot of places, so unless you are trying to get famous a la Kim Kardashian, take your adventures elsewhere. PDA is never amusing to anyone but the couple participating, so that is another aspect of your relationship that should be kept out of the workplace.
Additionally, many companies monitor their employees, so you’ll want to keep those NSFW correspondences off your company issued phone and email accounts. Keep those personal pics off your office phone and email, too - unless you don’t mind your IT person getting to know you more intimately.
Balance the Professional With the Personal
Remember to be professional, folks. More likely than not, you don’t want to tarnish your professional relationship because of a personal one. Acting unprofessionally can lead to being written up by your boss and, depending on what you’re caught doing, it can lead to termination.
Think about what you would tell a future employer as to why you were terminated from your company; “Well, I was fired from my job at ABC Company because I was caught doing it on the copier.”
Good luck landing that job! Remain on a friendly basis while at work with your romantic partner, but keep it at the same level as your non-romantic colleagues. Offsite, you can go crazy, just don’t let it impact your working relationship, workplace, or coworkers.
Understand That Things Might Not Work Out
It’s important to consider what the situation will be like if your workplace romance ends. Your relationship has run its course, and you’re now forced to face your ex-lover every day.
Again, keep it professional (do you see a theme here?). You may also need to disclose the breakup to HR, depending on your company’s policies.
If things don’t work out, you will most likely still have to interact with your ex at the office from time to time. Whether that’s in meetings, at the company holiday party, or in the break room, it’s best to move on - or at least pretend to.
The Bottom Line
So, is there a place for workplace romances?
Small or large company, you are surrounded by like-minded individuals working toward a common goal for 40+ hours every week. It’s a perfect location and opportunity to meet a mate. In a world of online dating and catfishing, it might even feel refreshing to date someone you already know in real life!
If you must go into a workplace relationship, be realistic. This relationship WILL impact you, your career, and your work at some point. Is it worth it?
Ideally, before you enter the relationship, set aside some time to discuss what will happen at work to ensure you both are on the same page. If you can see a possible future with this person, go for it (after you clear it with HR) and cross your fingers that you can go the distance.
Who knows? Maybe your workplace romance will be the next Jim and Pam!