To Date or Not to Date

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Chances are you have had a crush on a co-worker at least once during your career. According to a recent survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com, four out of 10 workers say they’ve dated a colleague at some point in their careers, while three in 10 say they married the person they dated at work.

Journalist and co-author of Office Mate: The Employee Manual for Finding and Managing Romance on the Job, Helaine Olen, said “The office has turned into the village of the 21st century. Where else do you spend 12 hours a day?”

For many working singles, Olen’s take on the office is entirely accurate. Many see the workplace as the most convenient place to find a mate, as it is the place we spend the majority of our time. Although workplace romances are more common than they were five years ago, they are still met with some skepticism. Keep the following tips in mind when considering a current co-worker for a future partner.

Check the handbook.
Some companies have strict dating guidelines, while others have no rules whatsoever. Before committing yourself to a new relationship, see what your office thinks of it. In some cases the required steps may be as simple as notifying a superior. Although this process may seem a bit awkward and unnatural, just remember it is better to cover all the bases to protect both you and your crush’s working situation. If your company doesn’t have a specific policy regarding inter-office dating, it is still wise to be especially cautious and forthcoming with management – especially if your relationship involves a supervisor/subordinate. Being open about the reality of your relationship will help you avoid the appearance or reality of sexual harassment, favoritism, and other risks that come with dating in the workplace. 

Weigh the costs.
As cynical as you may feel, consider what will happen if your new relationship doesn’t work out. Breakups are difficult enough without the added stress of having to see your ex every day at the office. Consider how you will feel when faced with working alongside your ex daily and if that is something you can work through. Although planning for failure may seem counterproductive, knowing how you’ll handle a potential situation may help you make important choices regarding your office romances.

Proceed with caution.
Although this piece of advice should be applied to all new relationships, it is especially important when it comes to inter-office dating. One of the largest benefits of dating a co-worker is the fact that you are able to establish a friendship prior to dating. You will have the opportunity to observe how your potential mate handles pressure, and also how he or she treats others during stressful times. Caution is necessary because it maintains professionalism in your office. If you enter into a romance carefree and spontaneously, your co-workers may view you as a serial dater. However, if you enter a relationship with purpose and thought, your teammates will see your commitment to a professional work environment.

Maintain professionalism.
Whether it’s fair or not, the moment your new romance is made public, co-workers will begin to judge your work more critically. Teammates are waiting for your relationship to interfere with your productivity, focus, and ability. It is imperative you show your teammates your continued dedication to your work, avoiding all distractions including those that come with romance. Avoid common mistakes like fighting in the office, public displays of affection, and cutesy nicknames. Although these things are all normal outside of the office, allowing them to become routine in the workplace will decrease your professionalism in the eyes of your team. Also, depending on the exact nature of any of these behaviors you could face repercussions, even if you are interacting with a loved one.

Finding love in the office is no longer a taboo subject. In fact, it is becoming more and more common. However, the way you choose to conduct yourself when in an office romance is vital. Carry yourself with the utmost professionalism, avoiding the typical pitfalls many couples make, and you will be sure to be voted the cutest couple of the office.

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