Business Etiquette: Romance in the Office
May 13, 2013
While office romances are definitely on the rise, beware the perils of getting romantically involved at work. In a recent poll, over half of all participants admitted to dating a co-worker. Even though interoffice relationships are gaining wider acceptance in some cases, they are still fraught with danger. Office romance can put you in a compromising situation. For example, it would be difficult to resolve the conflict of interest if one of you were in a position to impact the other’s career. Does your loyalty lie with your employer or your love interest? Also, you have to be able to trust that the other will not reveal personal information to fellow employees. Then there is the issue of the break up. Somebody always gets hurt and then it starts to get ugly. There was the case of a client whose plate glass window was shattered by a computer monitor, heaved by an employee jilted in an office affair. Lawsuits are not uncommon and sexual harassment cases are on the rise for this very reason.
Still think it’s a good idea to date a coworker? Better start eating healthy and taking extra vitamins and heighten your sense of discretion. You’re going to need a lot of energy and effort to keep your office romance between the two of you. When coworkers eventually find out, which they always do, you will be the subject of gossip and suspicion. Phrases like “Of course he got the raise, look who he’s dating” and “Can you believe she’s really dating him? I thought she had better taste” will be bantered around the office. If you really want people to focus on your professionalism, don’t give them reasons to gossip about you.
Some companies forbid romantic fraternization and others insist that you each work at different offices or locations. In some workplaces, one of the persons involved may be asked to leave the company due to rules and regulations. Companies are also very concerned about loss of productivity. Are you getting your work done effectively? Regardless of how attracted you are to a coworker, think about the consequences to both of your future careers.
Over the past few years, two high-profile workplace scandals demonstrated the perils of office romance. Talk show host David Letterman and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford exemplified what not to do in a workplace. Letterman confessed to having sexual relationships with his employees while Sanford used public funds to sustain his amorous relationship with his mistress. While both are still in the public eye, they will forever be linked to their indiscretions. It is human nature to remember the negative things that happen, especially if it is a scandal.
If you’re still thinking of having or continuing an office romance, ask yourself this question: What would I regret more, losing the job or losing the relationship? If you decide to stay in the relationship, prepare an exit strategy. Whether or not the romance works out, be ready to change jobs. Inevitably what happens is that one person ends up leaving the company. The perception is such that one person needs to leave to make it comfortable for the other. Or the relationship goes sour, and they can't stand looking at each other. I’m not sure who said this, but it gets the point across. “Don’t get your honey where you make your money”.