Love and Relationships

Office romance 101: The do’s and don’ts in dating a co-worker

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Office romance 101: The do’s and don’ts in dating a co-worker
Here's how to make sure that both your career and relationship stay on track

Dating can be complicated, but it’s significantly more complex when you’re in a relationship with a co-worker.

As your work and personal life bleeds into one another, circumstances could get messy when not dealt properly. If an office romance isn’t handled appropriately with enough caution and, well, professionalism, then it could lead to potential career-damaging challenges for you and your partner. 

It’s understandable, then, why many would quash a crush on their colleague instead rather than pursuing a potential relationship. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that all office romances are doomed for failure. Which is why we asked our Rappler readers on the do’s and don’ts of dating a co-worker and how others could keep both their career and relationship on track. 

Do: Know about your company’s policy on office romance

First, check your company handbook to see what their rules are about employees dating each other. While it’s rare for companies to forbid relationships altogether, there’s still some who have strict no-fraternization policies. 

Usually, there’s also restrictions for certain pairings such as managers to subordinates. More often than not, it’s frowned upon when a person dates someone who’s below or above you on the office hierarchy as it can create a major conflict of interest, regardless of whether the company has policies against them. It could cause issues, such as the manager picking favorites on a team or, worse, if the relationship gets affected when someone underperforms at work. 

Don’t: Try to keep the relationship a secret

If your company has no rules against dating among employees, it’s still best to make the upper management aware about your relationship to cover your bases. Disclosing you’re going out on a date or two with a co-worker would be premature, especially since it could end up as a passing thing, so only do it once the relationship gets serious and exclusive. 

While bosses aren’t usually privy to the personal matters of their employees’ relationships, office romances are different as they could have legal and ethical ramifications. In some cases, some work arrangements, such as changing departments, or signing acknowledgments that the relationship is consensual, can and should be made because of the relationship. 

Office romances are also prone to be the subject of rumors so best that the bosses hear it straight from you. This way, you can also control the message rather than letting exaggerated and untrue details about your relationship spread. Aside from removing the weight of keeping your romance a secret, you can also assure the upper management that your relationship won’t affect your work performance. 

Note also that being public about your relationship doesn’t have to be making a major announcement of it. You shouldn’t give them a detailed account as to how your relationship came about, but you also shouldn’t deny it if you’re asked about it. 

Don’t: Move too fast

Having spent a lot of time together at work might feel like you already know your partner really well. You might have developed an attraction with each other because of the things you had in common and how closely you work together. But how sure are you that you know them aside from their work persona? 

You might have bonded while complaining about stuffy work regulations or annoying clients, but what do you talk about when you’ve exhausted all conversations about work? Over time, you may begin to lose interest in the topics you’ve both found appealing. Which is why you should consider getting to know more about them before committing to each other exclusively. 

Make sure you also have mutual interests aside from work and that you’re still be able to agree on things not related to your office life. It’s best to also maintain individual friendships outside of your common circle of friends at work, as well as personal hobbies, to avoid being burnt out on spending a lot of time with each other. This will also help ensure that you’ve both maintained individual lives aside from being consumed by your relationship. 

Refrain also from rushing to hit major relationship milestones, such as meeting the family or moving in together, just because you think you’ve spent so much time together already. 

Do: Establish some ground rules

To ensure your relationship won’t interfere with work, best to have an open conversation about boundaries and the potential scenarios that could leave you both in a compromising situation. 

How should you act around each other at work? Do you want to always spend time together during lunch? Should you arrive and leave together at the office? Should you show displays of affection around co-workers? Should you work together on the same projects? Should you talk about confidential office matters even if your partner isn’t involved in it? What happens if you’ll compete for the same position or client? What will you do if your partner is reprimanded for slacking on work? 

Establishing these ground rules will make sure that you and your partner are on the same page as to how you will stay professional with each other despite being in a relationship. Additionally, doing this in the early stages of your relationship could help determine whether pursuing your romance will be good in the long run or not. 

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Do: Talk about handling a break-up

The last thing new couples want to talk about is breaking up. But when you have an office romance, it’s best to run through with all the possibly worst-case scenarios to make sure you’ll have an idea on how to cope with them if they did happen. 

How will you interact when you part ways? What happens if it’s a messy break-up and you can’t stand to be in the same space together? Will you remove yourself from projects that are being handled by your ex-partner? How will this affect your productivity at work, as well the office dynamics? Will your work promotion be affected if your superior is an ex? 

Aside from knowing how to handle the situation, make sure also to make a plan on how you would tell your co-workers and management about the split. 

By starting this conversation, both of you will be able to assess the possible consequences of having an office romance and how it could affect your career. If any of you think that the relationship isn’t worth the possible career risks that you could have, then best to cut it early before anyone develops deeper attachment. 

Do: Prioritize work and focus on your career goals

One of the main concerns for office romance is how it could potentially serve as a distraction to employees. But remember that the rule of thumb for dating a co-worker is for work to come first. 

During office hours, don’t engage in hour-long conversations or exchanging emails when you’re supposed to be preparing for meetings or working on your assignments. This way, you’ll avoid being penalized for inappropriate behavior at work. 

Also, make sure to stick to your career goals. You don’t want to end up denying yourself a promotion just because you’re uncertain of how it’ll affect your partner. If you end up making career sacrifices just to make your relationship work, then best to recalibrate on how healthy your relationship is. 

Do: Practice discretion and be considerate of your co-workers

Even if you already went public about your relationship, it’s best to still keep all the nitty-gritty details of your romance to you and your partner. 

Make sure to stay professional and appropriate at all times whilst in the office or company-related events. Don’t flaunt your romance at work as your flirting could make your co-workers uncomfortable. Make sure to also respect each other’s individuality at work and give each other space from time to time. 

And this isn’t limited to how physically affectionate you will be in the workplace. Avoid having personal discussions, banter, or inside jokes while you’re in the company of your workmates. 

Refrain from sharing intimate details of your relationship no matter how casual or joking you deliver them. Your officemates might be curious as to how the romance flourished, but remember that there’s no need for you to flaunt it. 

Better to avoid complaining about the problems you’re having in your relationship, especially to your circle at work as they’re also familiar with whom you’re talking about. Airing your dirty laundry could lead to them choosing sides when you’re having a conflict, or worse, the entire company might be against your partner when you’ve broken up. 

Don’t: Let your relationship affect your work and vice versa

When you’re at work, best to treat each other like any other colleague. Don’t let a lover’s quarrel affect your performance at work. It’s also unprofessional to bring your conflicts to work-related discussions. 

The same goes for not bringing your disagreements at work into your private lives. Having a bad day at work after getting reprimanded at the office doesn’t give you the right to lash out at your partner at home. 

Another way to keep your work and personal lives separate is by making sure you’re not both consumed with your work. Given that you know the same people and work on similar projects, you might be tempted to keep chatting about the office gossip all the time. But remember that you also need something else to talk about. 

By maintaining a professional boundary with your partner, it’ll lessen the complications with your career and relationship. 

Don’t: Keep the relationship going just because of how it’ll potentially affect your career

Ending a relationship is difficult, especially when you know that it could also affect different aspects of your life.

However, once it’s clear that you both have incompatibilities that can’t be worked together as a couple, best to put an end to the relationship already. 


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