Office Romance – How to Handle love in the Workplace
Office romances happen. Quite often, they lead to long-term relationships and sometimes marriage. But starting a romance with a co-worker can have unforeseen consequences. In the worst-case scenario, your office romance can lead to uncomfortable situations and unplanned or forced resignations. Before you make the leap into an office romance, consider these tips:
Check the Rulebook
Find out what your employer’s policies are on the topic of office relationships before you start the romance. Some companies are more traditional and have zero tolerance when it comes to office romances, whereas other companies are more accepting. If you’ve already been dating, disclose your office romance to your HR person as soon as possible. Some firms require you to follow certain guidelines or inform other staff members.
The recent #Me2 movement has ensured firms and their employees adhere to sexual harassment laws and regulations. Bottom line – prepared for the consequences if not followed.
A Boss Romance = A Bad Romance
No matter how your heart races at the sight of your boss or a direct report, the message here is ‘stay away’. To be sure, sometimes it’s hard to tell your heart not to be attracted to someone. However, in the case of dating your boss, not only can office perceptions reflect negatively on you, it can pose a real conflict of interest. It is almost impossible to be objective when providing a review on your office partner’s work performance. It can also affect future promotions and movement within the firm, more so for men (source: Saje publications). If ending the relationship is not going to happen, at the very least transfer departments.
Skip the PDA (public displays of affection)
You’re at work, not on a date. While it’s tempting to flash a smile across the boardroom, or hold hands in the elevator, public displays of affection are inappropriate in a business setting. Bottom line: hands off until you’re off the clock! Engaging in PDA can make your fellow coworkers uncomfortable. It also shows a lack of professionalism and respect for the organization. In fact, set boundaries with your partner on how you interact at work as well as how you discuss work after hours. Keep sexting and love notes for after 5 pm!
Should you kiss and tell?
With office culture favouring break-out rooms and common spaces, it’s no surprise that more than 57% (vault.com) of people have had office romances. While revealing to a colleague or two on why you’ve had an extra twinkle or two in your eyes may seem innocent, consider the stage of the relationship. If it’s still in the ‘honeymoon’ stage, it’s best to keep it to yourselves. After all, it may never go anywhere.
However, if after several months the relationship is going strong, (6-9 at least), then it would be acceptable to share with some close co-workers. When sharing any relationship details, keep in mind that the other person in the relationship is also your confidante’s co-worker. Think about how work relationships would be affected by sharing details of your love life with coworkers. Lastly, even if you choose to not share, chances are they will find out anyways, and you might as well be in control of the narrative.
When Your Office Romance Goes Wrong
Even if you thought the relationship was the ‘real deal’, sometimes it still goes wrong. A good suggestion here is to discuss early on how you will handle a potential breakup. After all it can affect fellow staff members, not just yourselves. Decide if one of you may need to start a job search or ask for a transfer.
At the end of the day, know your firm’s dating policy, never date your boss or direct reports, and decide if the relationship is the real deal before sharing. Lastly, pre plan your exist strategy so you can end your office romance graciously if you need to.