The good old office romance.
With the office party season in full swing just before Christmas I thought it was a good idea to think about some of the antics that go on at these parties and what can happen when some of us get a bit too tipsy and declare their undying love for the office hottie.
I have some great memories of my christmas dos at my old office and I always used to look forward to it. It was the one chance that us office guys got to get together with the girls in the factory in a casual setting. During my time at my old workplace I saw many an office romance blossom at the christmas party and some even ended up in marriage. That made me wonder how many people meet their partners in a work environment.
It is estimated that people with a regular work week of 40 hours spend on average a quarter of their time at work or in a work environment with colleagues. For professionals who spend 60 hours or more at work this percentage is even higher. So it isn’t that surprising that more and more people start a relationship with a co-worker. They simply don’t have time to go out and meet new people outside this work environment.
However for quite a few people this transition from professional to romantic relationship fails miserably because they forget some crucial rules for office dating. So, before you decide to start to get cosy with Gemma or John from accounts you might want to take a closer look at all the potential benefits and disasters that could be associated with dating a co-worker.
I made a list of 6 things you might want to take into consideration before you embark on your whirl wind office romance.
1. Don’t poke the payroll.
It may be a funny saying, but it is one that you should keep in mind, especially if you are a manager. Starting a relationship with the people you supervise can open up a whole can of worms and is usually frowned upon.
Even if you both are able to keep things separate and professional, once you start dating someone you manage tongues in the office will start wagging. Right or not people may start accusing you of favouritism when decisions have to be made on promotion or the direction a project goes in. Your partner may be the best choice for a position, but whatever decision you make people are always going to whisper behind your back and wonder whether it was merit or preferential treatment.
The main reason why relationships in the workplace between managers and staff can cause problems is something called the dual relationship principle . It is a term which came from the medical profession and which has made it’s way in to mainstream business practice. For example, imagine a doctor treating a patient. They now have a doctor-patient relationship. Any other type of relationship they may start (business, friend, lover) would cause a potential conflict-of-interest between that new relationship and the original clinical relationship. That is why in general doctors are barred from having any other type of relationships with their patients.
To avoid this kind of conflict within a company HR manuals routinely have rules about dating between supervisors and their subordinates. Which brings us to the following:
2. Check the company policy.
I know this may sound a bit formal and unromantic, but before you invite your office crush for a possible date you might want to check if your company has an employee dating policy.
Political correctness is rife in the workplace and companies these days have to cover themselves for any potential litigation including sexual harassment for inappropriate behaviour. That is why quite a few companies have started to include a section on employee relations into their company rule book.
You may be on cloud nine at the start of you relationship, but your company may have a different more down to earth view about any relationship that forms between you two.
3. Make sure you are reading the signals correctly.
It is one thing casting the odd flirtatious glances across the office or exchanging hellos at the water cooler, but that doesn’t mean your crush is interested in you or even that the two of you will fit together.
Which is why it is always wise to do a bit of research before you make your move. Luckily nowadays there are many ways to find out basic things about people. If they are on Facebook, and who isn’t these days, you can have a look through their profile to see if they are in a relationship or what they are into. Just make sure you keep it casual and don’t turn into a full blown stalker.
If you don’t want to go down the NSA digital snooping route you could always ask your co-workers about your crush; drop their name into a conversation and ask some informal questions if they are seeing someone or not. That way you know if it is wise to make your move or whether you should leave it. After all the last thing you want is a colleague to feel uncomfortable because you misunderstood general friendliness.
4. Keep Business and Romance separate.
Dating a co-worker can and will inevitably affect your work, how you behave at work and how you interact. If you are unable to differentiate between work and pleasure things may get complicated and will cause some tension. So if you want your relationship to work you’ll have to set up some relationship ground rules for when you are in the office.
Some of these can be that you avoid public signs of affection such as hand holding, kissing, flirting or the quickie in the stationary cupboard no matter how appealing it may seem. You’d better keep those kind of things for after hours. Believe me not every one wants to see the two of you pressed up against the wall in the kitchen kissing each other’s face off, while they are tucking into their lunch.
Remember to maintain a professional image and don’t let your relationship influence your performance. After all if your romance is affecting your work, your boss may decide that you are more preoccupied by your partner than your work and he may ask you to end your relationship or to find another job
5. Cover your tracks.
It is best to avoid sending electronic love messages, emails or saucy pictures. Some companies prohibit the use of company e-mail systems for personal use, while others reserves the right to access or disclose electronic messages or files of an employee.
Things could get pretty awkward at your next pay review if your boss ever gets copied in to your home made version of 50 shades of grey.
6. What if it doesn’t work out?
Relationships break down, people split up and go their own way each and every day, but if you work with someone you have been dating things don’t always end with just saying your goodbyes. You will still have to see them on a daily basis in the office or in the corridor which can be awkward, especially if you have been sharing some intimate gossip.
What if the split is really acrimonious? Then it may be difficult or even impossible to maintain a professional relationship and working together. It might even mean that one of you will have to leave your job because things didn’t work out, potentially ruining a promising career.
So ask yourself if you will be able to handle a situation where you split up with someone, but still see them on a day to day basis or interact with them before you make your move.
As you see there are may be some benefits to office romance, but unfortunately for most of us there are just more downsides. I would suggest you think very hard before you get stuck into a relationship that may affect your career and if you are ready to do this.
Let us know in the comments below what you think about office romance. Maybe you have had an office fling or seen colleagues and friends embark on one, we’d love to hear about it.