Jim and Pam from The Office. Amy and Jake from Brooklyn 99. Brennan and Booth from Bones. These are fictional characters that have met and fallen in love with one another in the workplace, and it can happen in the real world too.
It’s not uncommon to develop a crush or romantic attachment to a colleague when you are already spending so much time together. When you work with someone in the same office (even if they are from a different department), you learn information that you typically don’t get from dating apps. You know how they manage conflicts, celebrate achievements and you may even have been there for them at their lowest point.
As you muster the courage to ask them out on a date, you may be wondering about the risks of getting into a romantic relationship in the workplace. What to do when you like someone at work? Is it bad to date a coworker? Can you get fired for dating a coworker?
what are the risks of dating a co-worker?
Workplace relationships bring about a different set of challenges such as job stability, work conflicts, reputation, discrimination and legal lawsuits. Before pursuing a romantic relationship with a co-worker, think about the potential consequences, risks and implications.
Dating a colleague can be complicated and requires careful navigation. Here’s some advice for dating someone at work and the things you should do if you find yourself falling for a colleague.
5 workplace dating rules about office romances that you need to know
Here are five things you need to be aware of about office romances so that you aren’t caught up in conflicts and misunderstandings.
Find out how to handle romantic relationships at work and gain some insights to help you think about your next steps.
1. check your company’s dating policies
Before you pursue a romantic relationship with a colleague, it's important to check your employee handbook or company’s policies.
It’s not common, but certain organisations have no-dating policies to prevent potential workplace conflicts or bias treatments at work. Knowing whether your company has workplace romance policies in place or not will help you navigate the situation more effectively.
If there is a strict no-dating policy in your office, then you might want to think twice about dating your colleague while the both of you are still employed by the same organisation. But we all know that love knows no bounds. Once you’re hit with cupid’s bow, nothing will stop you from finding a way to skirt around the company’s policies.
2. stay professional
Consider your power dynamics at work, especially if one of you has more power and influence in the office which may create some imbalances at work or even in the relationship.
You could be engaging in a consensual relationship with someone who is either a senior executive or junior employee (even if they are from another department). This may lead to colleagues perceiving that you are using your romantic connection to ‘play favourites’, no matter if it is true or not.
Whatever happens in your relationship, it is critical that you remain professional at work. Avoid any behaviour that might be interpreted as showing favouritism to your partner, and make sure you keep performing your duties to the best of your ability.
Even if your HR department has no company policy against finding love in the workplace, you should still disclose your interoffice relationship to avoid conflict of interest or the potential for favouritism. If you wish to maintain your privacy and are not ready to disclose this piece of private information to your HR team, you may want to consult a trusted supervisor or mentor for guidance.
3. keep your office romance discreet
If you decide to pursue a relationship with a colleague, it's important to be careful and considerate about it. Keep your relationship on the down-low in the workplace and avoid public displays of affection in the office.
While it does sound like we are asking you to keep your workplace romance a secret from your colleagues, that’s not what we mean. At some point in the relationship, you may wish to volunteer the information that you are dating someone in the office to your colleagues to clear some doubts.
Make clear your intentions of why you are choosing to disclose the information and limit the details. You do not want to be the subject of office gossip and oversharing your private lives at the workplace can do more harm than good.
Even if you do find out that your colleagues are talking about your office relationship behind your back, don’t engage immediately. Try to find out the whole story and check whether what your colleagues said is true before you decide your next steps. Remember that your relationships with people at work are still just as important and you wouldn’t want to risk ruining it.
4. don't mix business with pleasure
As with any relationship, conflicts may arise. You should handle your conflicts professionally if you don't want to be the talk of the town on workplace romance drama. Even if you have a squabble that morning about leaving an empty milk carton in the fridge, don’t bring your emotions and feelings to the workplace.
Always keep your personal and professional lives separate. Don’t allow your relationship to interfere with your work. Try to resolve conflicts quickly and privately to stop them from spilling over into the workplace or affect your job performance.
Refrain yourselves from any forms of public displays of affection in the office. Not everyone is comfortable with the relationship. Be respectful of other people’s boundaries and make sure not to make your co-workers uncomfortable.
5. consider the potential risks and plan for the future
We all want our next relationship to be the last, but sometimes it might not work out as how you’ve planned it. Before you start, think about what might happen when the relationship ends and how it could impact your experiences at work and your other relationships with your colleagues.
You can never be fully prepared for the future, but it’s always better than not preparing for it at all. Dating a colleague can potentially change your working dynamic with them. If the relationship ends, it can be difficult to navigate working with someone who you used to be romantically involved with.
Communicate openly with your partner and have a game plan in place to handle any potential fallout, which could include awkwardness at work, gossip, or even career setbacks. This may include seeking support from friends and family, or even considering a job change if necessary.
be mindful of everyone around you
All romances are never just about two people. Your bosses and colleagues would be worried about whether your romance in the workplace will change the way you work with one another at work.
Besides being honest and respectful to your partner, you should also ensure that your personal relationship doesn’t impact your work to maintain a professional workplace for all employees.
However, if things do get awkward at work or at home, working with a new employer can help reduce conflict and misunderstanding.
Reach out to our specialist recruiters who are always ready to help you out with helpful insights and career advice. Alternatively, you can browse our latest and hottest job listings to get started. Seek advice from experts and explore your potentials and possibilities.