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How To Date a Colleague (it’s a Fact – it happens!)

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

Colleagues date.  It’s a statement of fact. Heck … it’s how I met my wife!

Although it’s something that is generally accepted by employers, there are still some things we should know to make sure it doesn’t cost us our job or income (and hey, we’ve just survived a recession, let’s not lose our jobs over a bad relationship at work…)

Over the last few months, I’ve been hearing from professionals who have experienced romantic relationships with colleagues to discover some tips to make sure that your date doesn’t spell disaster for your career. If you’re in a relationship (or getting hot under the collar and about to start one) then here’s some great advice, given by people who have been there and done it (and sometimes, regretted it…)

Have An Exit Strategy

OK, this isn’t normally considered a good start to a relationship! True enough, though, several of the people I talked to mentioned that they wish they had thought of how they would end it before they got in too deep.

Before you begin a deeper relationship with a colleague, it’s a good idea to consider how you will handle the situation if things come to a painful end. If need be, can you transfer somewhere else within the organization?

The main tip is to seriously consider how well your date (and yourself) can handle break-ups. Can you honestly describe both of you as emotionally mature? If not, then you should consider how a break up will lead you to behave, and what measures you will have to take to avoid fall-out.

Agree Rules

It’s often helpful to lay down some rules that you and your date will honor, whilst at work. These should be to protect both of your jobs and productivity. These rules could control how you will both arrive and leave the office, or how you will both react if you’re in a professional situation together. It’s well worth establishing do’s and don’ts to avoid embarrassment later.

Don’t Date a Superior/Subordinate

Most employers are cool about dating your professional equal, but when it comes to dating a superior (someone on a higher level than you in the organization) or a subordinate (someone on a lower level than you in the organization), employers often apply massive pressure to close the relationship. Why? Well, for both you and your date, there is a conflict of interest. That is, the interests of your romantic relationship are often directly opposed to your professional relationship. If your colleagues were to find out, you or your date could be accused of favoritism. Not just that, but should things go wrong there is a potential to be charged with some kind of sexual harassment suit. And perhaps the most likely problem that will occur is that you will both find it difficult to concentrate on your jobs and productivity will suffer.

Avoid Office Communication

Most companies and corporations reserve the right to access and read all forms of office communication, including e-mail. Romantic messages between you and your date are, therefore, in the corporate domain. Which can be embarrassing if you’re found out. Especially if it lands in the hands of unscrupulous people. If you really must communicate something personal to the person you’re seeing, use your cellular phone or, best of all, wait until office hours or over. You don’t want to be caught with your pants down, so to speak.

Don’t Bring It Into The Office

Whatever you do, don’t bring your relationship into the office. This includes discussing your relationship with other co-workers. Most importantly, don’t engage in public displays of affection! It’s unprofessional and cheesy, to be frank. It’s OK to let others know you’re dating after the relationship is ‘established’ (euphemistically termed, but in other words – once the lust has died down), but even then you should behave professionally at work.

On the flip-side, fighting with your date must be left outside the office doors. Even when tension is high, however, resist the urge to quarrel at work or you might be out of a job. This is especially true if your arguments get in the way of productivity.

Prepare for a Happy Ending

Perhaps I’ve painted a picture of doom and gloom for office romances. It’s often written in employee newsletters and minor news items about co-workers taking the plunge into marriage. It does happen. Perhaps it will for you, and good on you if it does. Do prepare for it though. Remember, you may have been covering up your relationship for months or even years. Be prepared for the shock (and maybe anger) from you colleagues when they find out you’ve been decieving them. And do check with company policy about spousal co-working – it’s normally OK but in some workplaces it is against the rules and it would require you to re-locate or find alternative employment. I’m no lawyer (nor do I pretend to be) so have somebody competent to see where you stand.

Summary

It should be simple: use common sense. But I know, to be honest, that when in a romantic relationship at the office, common sense can go right out of the window. However, I do hope that you see the value in the advice I have provided above!

And I must admit, this article has been written from the perspective of hindsight. Apart from the last piece of advice, I broke all the other rules myself when dating my wife over 10 years ago!

If you have any sound advice you would like to pass on to readers, then why not leave a comment in the box below?

 
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About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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2 Comments

  1. Mark McClure

    Simon, careful! You’ll be getting ‘agony aunt’ calls if you start down this thorny path 😉

    re: “Don’t Date a Superior/Subordinate”
    Very sage advice.

    However, have you ever seen what happens when a romance begins in peer-to-peer mode (!)… but then one partner gets upgraded (I mean promoted)?

    There’s no handshaking protocol I know of that can deal with so many interruptions and emotional runt packets.

    Result?

    Connection terminated.

    (Moral? Stay open-source…)

     
    • simonstapleton

      Mark – talking from experience 😉 I have never seen so many IT-related euphemisms in an article about dating before!

       

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