Considering Dating a Coworker? Keep These Things in Mind
If you’ve ever been tempted to strike up a workplace romance, it’s not all that surprising of a concept. Research shows we fall for people who are similar to ourselves, and coworkers are likely to have shared passions and skills. Not to mention, we spend more than one-third of our waking life at the office, meaning the odds are good that you’ll catch some feels for a colleague eventually.
But here’s the thing — dating a coworker is risky territory. Not only do you have to worry about relationship drama affecting your work, but if things go south, you’ll have to deal with some pretty awkward elevator rides for the foreseeable future.
“If you break up, you have to face this person daily,” explains relationship expert April Masini. “This makes moving on, as well as working efficiently at your job, a problem.”
All that said, there are lots of rewards to striking up an office romance, too. As Masini points out, it’s a lot easier to date someone when you have similar work schedules, and observing someone at work gives you valuable information about their character, their work ethic and their passions.
In other words, it can be worth the risk to date a coworker … provided you tread carefully, that is. Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind to ensure your love life doesn’t negatively impact your professional life.
How to Date a Coworker Without It Causing a Problem
Do: Research your company’s policy
A lot of companies have specific policies for workplace dating. Some may prohibit it entirely, while some may allow consensual relationships between two people who are not in a manager-employee role.
Before you proceed with dating your coworker, do your due diligence by finding out what, if any, restrictions are in place. After all, violating these policies could jeopardize your job. If your employee handbook isn’t clear on these policies, you can talk to HR for some clarification.
Don’t: Indulge in PDA at the office
Resist the temptation to snag a quick smooch at the water cooler or hold hands as you walk down the hall to the company meeting. Not only is it unprofessional, but it could make your coworkers feel uncomfortable.
“As exciting as it may be, it’s important to try and separate work and romance,” says Masini.
Do: Be deliberate about pursuing a relationship
It’s crucial that you don’t act impulsively when it comes to an office romance; there’s far too much on the line. In other words, casual hookups and work simply don’t mix. That means it’s important to have an open and honest discussion when it comes to defining the relationship to ensure that there are no misconstrued feelings that bleed into your day-to-day at work.
“It’s easy to crush on someone at work, then to have a few too many cocktails with coworkers after a long week and start sleeping together,” says Masini. “If you’re seeing someone from your office, try to maintain a structured dating life away from the office.”
Don’t be afraid to delve into the tough questions, too. The more you keep the line of communication open, the better prepared you and your partner will be to face any possible scenario. Will you tell your boss about your relationship, and if so, how and when? What happens if you break up? Will you both be able to stay at the company?
These are the things you should be asking (and hashing out) together.
Don’t: Date someone who works above or below you on your team
As a general rule, it’s best to avoid dating someone who you report to, or who reports to you. That could be your direct manager, a higher-level executive or the newly hired intern.
“You may be accused of favoritism or of being the beneficiary of favoritism,” explains Masini.
Not only that, but if things don’t work out and you leave the company, you may be hesitant to ask for a reference because of the note you went out on. It’s best to think of the future before making such a quick decision in the moment that could affect you in the long run.
Do: Keep your relationship drama out of the office.
If there’s one thing to avoid, it’s letting your arguments bleed into work. Not only will it likely take a toll on your work performance and productivity, but it’s bound to make colleagues feel awkward, and may negatively affect their perception of you.
Wait until you leave work to reprimand them about something that happened back at your apartment. And while you’re at it, wait to ask them where they want to grab dinner or to discuss your romantic weekend getaway.
The more you can keep work and play separate, the healthier your dual working-romantic life will be.
Don’t: Do the walk of shame to work
Showing up to the office in the same clothes you wore yesterday is not a good look. That’s why Masini suggests always being prepared with a change of clothes at your partner’s place, in your car or in your office bag/backpack. It’s an easy way to avoid looking like a disheveled mess if you crash at your significant other’s place without heading home first before work.
Do: Take advantage of the perks.
Want to split the ride to work? How about getting lunch together if you have breaks that line up? Go for it. As long as you remain professional from the moment you walk into the office to the moment you leave, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy the many conveniences that come along with your situation.
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