I’ve been asked about office romances—dating someone you work with. Here is my advice and some basic “do’s” and “don’ts.”

Unfortunately too many office romances end in disaster!  The primary reason is that neither men or women are good at setting, maintaining and honoring boundaries; and messy entanglements result; especially if one of the people decides the other is not a good match and wants to, or tries to, end the dating relationship.

Understand, men and women are working with each other, and they are people that they respect, people that they have intellectual interests with, people that they share excitement over projects, frustration over deadlines, celebrate the wins, and commiserate over the challenges.  So the relationship begins as a platonic friendship that is very deep and rich.  What happens is that, over time, they begin to share more and more of their personal lives together, and then they mistakenly believe that they are having authentic emotional feelings and attachments to each other.  This type of intimate sharing of personal thoughts and feelings is unlike casual sexual encounters; these interactions create strong bonds between the people.  Once this level of personal intimacy grows, the dreaded office romance is just on the horizon.

In the absence of these strong bonds and the misunderstanding related to the feelings that arise, many of these people would never even be attracted to each other.  In general, I urge both men and women to not date people in the workplace.

On the other hand, contemporary men and women spend so much time at work, and have so much less time to get out and socialize than they used to, that there are more and more compelling reasons to date people in your workplace.

Avoid the “Water Cooler”:

  • Ask human resources if your firm has a stated policy about colleagues dating.
  • Meet after hours far away from the office.
  • If your relationship does work out and the two of you decide to get married, one of you should be prepared to look for another job.
  • If you’re the type of person who can’t take no for an answer, you have no business dating people at work.
  • No public displays of affection in the office.
  • Be discreet about what you are doing.  No one keeps secrets.  Don’t tell anyone anything you wouldn’t want published in a major newspaper.
  • Stay off your company computers; no emailing in the office.
  • Don’t announce to the office that you are dating!  Wait a little while to see if your relationship is likely to go beyond 60 or 90 days, or if the two of you drift apart after the first few dates.
  • Never bring your arguments of upsets to work—leave them at home.
  • Supervisors:  Don’t date your subordinates.

Next week, I’ll talk about what to do once you find yourself on the brink of an office romance.

Remember, only YOU can make it happen!

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