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May 7, 2012
The Good, The Bad, and The Really, Really Ugly
 
Many business offices are full of chatter during the work day, but what happens when some of that talk turns to the office romance? In those cases, nothing good usually comes of it.
 
As someone that has been down this road before years ago, I can tell you firsthand that all hands on deck are not happy when they discover something has being going on underneath their noses. For those that already knew something was up, they can quickly spread the news like wildfire.
 
How She Went from Co-Worker to Girlfriend
 
From my own experiences, we began as normal co-workers and then one day decided to go to a nearby eatery on our lunch break.
 
That get-together later evolved into an evening date, followed by another date, and another date and so on. Before we knew it, we were spending a good portion of our weekends together. Being a number of years older than my co-worker, I think she worried a little more than I did regarding any possible repercussions if folks found out.
 
As it turns out, at least one co-worker later said she knew pretty much from the start that this woman and I were dating. Even though we tried several covert moves to cover it up, some folks just catch on to things more than you realize.
 
While many businesses do not encourage such close contact between workers, others either have no policy or are okay with it provided it does not impact the office and the ability of one’s co-workers to get their jobs done. I tend to fall in the latter category, noting that as long as the work gets done and the office doesn’t turn into a gossip factory, it essentially comes down to no harm, no foul.
 
So, should you find yourself with more than a casual interest in a co-worker (and let us assume they are single and we’re not talking affairs, etc. here), what are some ways to enjoy that relationship without putting your job, their job and the company’s productivity at risk?
 
I would recommend the following:
  • Make sure this is more than just a one-night fling. While some co-workers truly do meet and fall in love at work, there are other instances where it turns into a one-night fling and then the office has a real mess on its hands. In order to avoid such nastiness, start out slow and see where it goes;
  • Look at your roles within the company. We all know it happens, but we’d like to think it doesn’t — those office romances where someone in power (oftentimes the man) ends up dating a woman a little lower on the totem pole. Next thing you know, she’s moving her way up the work food chain faster than some of the other women in the office that are more qualified for promotions and raises. If there is a large degree of difference in roles between you and the other person, think twice before beginning something that could quickly impact more people in the office than just the two of you;
  • By all means, be discreet. I cannot tell you how many times my co-worker and myself tried our best to cover our tracks when in the office, yet still some knew exactly what was going on. Don’t parade the fact around the office that you two are seeing each other. In my case, we started work at the same time each day, but we would arrive separately even though we may have spent the evening before together. In order to lessen the suspicions of wandering eyes and ears, we made sure to each drive our own vehicles to work and come in a few minutes apart;
  • Don’t quibble in the office. All relationships have their ups and downs, but don’t bring your office laundry per se to work. If you and your significant other co-worker are having some disagreements, agree to disagree after the work day is over. In the event you are both working in the same department, this is even more critical that you don’t turn the workplace into the venue to air your dirty laundry;
  • Don’t give one another extra attention at work. Another gaffe is getting a little too comfortable while on the clock. I have worked with co-workers that were either dating or married and they sometimes got a little too touchy-feely in the workplace. Remember, the office is a professional setting and there is plenty of time before and after the eight-hour day to spend quality time with one another;
  • If you have any reservations, then you are probably right. In today’s litigious age, an office romance that spirals downward can end up leading to a he said/she said scenario, chock full of co-workers taking sides. While I certainly would not say this is the norm, there are instances where couples that have been working together will break up, with one then going that extra mile to hire a lawyer and say that the other party harassed them while on the job or was instrumental in them not getting a promotion etc. If you are doubtful by any means that an office relationship may be right for you, then avoid it. You can still more than likely be casual acquaintances with that co-worker and avoid all the hassle at the same time;
  • Be prepared for the consequences. While my office situation did not impact my job, there are instances where two people will be dating at work and push will come to shove. In the event you find yourself in the situation where your office romance is out of control and your job or both your positions will be impacted, either kill off the relationship or be prepared to deal with the fallout. Even though an office relationship can be exciting and invigorating, it can also lead to disaster if not properly handled. 
So, what experiences have you had with office relationships?
 
If good, are you still with the person and do you still work together?
 
If bad, how did it end and what impact did it have on your job?

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