Even though there’s a philosophy one should never mix business with pleasure, such mixing occurs more often than one might think. According to a recent survey of 8,000 workers by the job search website CareerBuilder.com, four out of 10 employees have dated someone at work; 17 percent have done it twice. And it’s no wonder. We spend most of our time at work, and it is often at work we meet like-minded people.
“I really believe it’s okay to date a coworker, if you are smart about it,” NYC dating and relationship expert Karenna Alexander told us. “I have so many single clients who are struggling with finding the right person, to tell them that they can’t date someone at work would be unfair. Like it or not, work is a way many people these days meet. We spend so much time at work that the likelihood you will meet someone there is high.”
And it’s no longer taboo to date someone in your office. In fact, a CareerBuilder survey found that 72 percent of workers who have office relationships don’t try to hide them, versus 46 percent who did five years ago.
But before you make out in the copy room with a co-worker, find out your company’s policy on interoffice dating because it may be frowned upon by higher ups. If not, you should go for it.
There are upsides to dating a co-worker after all. “Since it’s harder and harder for people to meet in real life, work is a great opportunity to find someone who you click with, who shares the same interests with you. Having a partner who understands what you are going through during work travails can be helpful to a relationship. Relationships are strung together by common bonds and this is one common bond that will always be there,” noted Alexander.
But make no mistake there are some potential downsides to dating a co-worker as well. Proximity isn’t always a good thing, and your work could suffer and thus affect your career. “It can be tough dating a co-worker, no two ways about it,” Alexander added. “Good relationships need space. When you are with one another all the time, it is harder to create space, which is necessary to keep the spark alive. If your partner is sitting in the next cubicle to you, it can be harder to concentrate on work when things are going well, and when they are going bad.”
If you do decide to test the romantic waters with a work colleague, here are a few tips:
—Keep it on the downlow at first. When the romance is new, it’s not wise to go broadcasting your relationship. “Don’t go public with your romance until you are pretty sure this is a solid thing,” said Alexander. “When you are in a solid relationship, you don’t have to hide it, but don’t treat your partner any different from another co-worker. Don’t play favorites, as you might want to do.” Also, you could make your co-workers uncomfortable if you show too much affection toward each other in the office, added relationship and business coach Jan Yager, author of the recently released “125 Ways to Meet the Love of Your Life.”
“Avoid acting passionate around each other at work, including such obvious romantic gestures as staring into each other’s eyes, hand-holding, or kissing. Try not to call each other by such demonstrative terms as ‘honey,’ ‘dear,’ ‘sweetie,’ ‘sweetheart,’ or a special, intimate nickname you may have for each other.”
—Figure out when to go public. Once you realize your relationship is the real deal, you might want to let your boss and co-workers in on the romance. “Your boss should not be the last to find out, or hear it from someone else. When you know the connection is getting serious, request a meeting and let him or her know about the relationship. Assure them it will not interfere with your job. As far as your co-workers, it’s not necessary to make a public announcement, but don’t lie and deny it if someone asks,” advised etiquette expert and corporate trainer Diane Gottsman of The Protocol School of Texas.
—Plan ahead for when things might not be so rosy. There will be times you argue, and maybe even a time when you breakup. You need to come up with a plan in case this happens. “Discuss how you would handle yourselves at work if the personal relationship ends,” Toni Coleman, psychotherapist and relationship coach, advised. “Would you both be able to work comfortably together, would one of you find it too difficult to do so? This discussion will help both of you down the road if the relationship fizzles.”
—Discuss nothing personal, only business. The workplace is no place to air out your personal laundry. So when you are at work, keep it all business. Wait until you leave work to talk about your relationship issues.
—Get ready for the whispers. If you are dating a coworker, you can be sure people will gossip. So be prepared to be the fodder of the grapevine for a while.
—Go about business as usual. “Do not let your romance affect your productivity,” warned Yager. “The managers I interviewed seemed concerned if a developing romance competed for a worker’s attention. For example, if you work on the 4th floor and the co-worker you’re dating is working on the 10th floor, unless you have a really good reason for going to the 10th floor, try to keep the dating part of your relationship out of your work day.”