How to date a co-worker without sabotaging your career

Though it may be a cliché, an interoffice romance isn’t as big of a no-no as it used to be. In fact, some studies show that up to 50% of people have dated a co-worker before. It makes sense: you spend a lot of your time at work, which means meeting and getting to know someone in the office is easier than meeting and getting to know someone outside of the office. That said, before things escalate from a crush into something more, there are a few things you should consider before dating a co-worker so that you don’t sabotage your career.

1. Review workplace rules

First things first: check your copy of the office handbook to see if your workplace already has guidelines in place for dating a co-worker. If they do, adhere to them. But if they don’t, you and your partner should speak with HR and your direct managers to let them know you are together and assure them that your relationship will not affect your work output.

2. Always act like a professional

Though a workplace is, in effect, a social space, and though you may be very good friends with many of your co-workers, you and your partner should always act like professionals. Don’t let relationship squabbles spill over into your work – ever.

3. No PDA

Under no circumstances should you and your partner engage in any sort of PDA (aka public displays of affection) at the office. Your co-workers don’t want to see it and, honestly, it could make your fellow employees feel incredibly uncomfortable around the two of you. Something else to consider: if you’re in a traditional office environment, always keep the door open when you’re in your significant other’s office, just to keep any possible gossip at bay.

4. Keep your relationship off your work computer

It might seem fun to send a cheeky mid-day email to your boyfriend or girlfriend, but refrain from sending it to or from a work-provided email account or phone. There’s always a digital trail and you don’t want to be reprimanded – or worse, let go – for violating a corporate policy on the misuse of technology.

5. Have a mutual breakup contingency plan

No one in a relationship ever wants to think about a breakup, but when you work with your partner, you need to have a rational plan for how things will go at the office if the relationship sours.

Relationship With a Co-Worker: The Essential Tips for 2022

Here are the unwritten rules to follow and potential problems to avoid when pursuing a relationship with a co-worker.

The average person spends nearly one hundred thousand hours at work over their lifetime, so it’s fair to say we spend more time with our colleagues than with our friends and family. As a result, our personal and professional lives tend to become entwined quite easily. However, workplace relationships can be detrimental to your career as well as helpful in easing the daily grind.

Workplace romances can lead to long-term relationships and even lasting partnerships, but they can also result in uncomfortable situations for those involved and their colleagues. Those who combine business and pleasure may be unintentionally fired or forced to resign due to a failed relationship in the worst-case scenario. 

It is true; however, that office romances do occur. People often develop crushes or fall in love at work, given how much time they spend there. Here are some essential relationship with a co-worker tips to follow in 2022.

Relationship With a Co-Worker Essential Tips

1. Check Your Employer’s Policies 

Take a look at the company’s dating policies before beginning a relationship with a colleague (or as soon as possible after it begins). There are many companies, large and small, that prohibit co-workers from developing romantic relationships. When it’s against the rules, you must ask yourself: “Is it worth it?”

2. Is It A Good Idea?

It’s important to ensure a relationship is genuine before entering one. Does your friendship extend beyond the workplace, or do you bond over an intense project that requires late nights at work or frustration at a boss? When you begin a romantic relationship, make sure you know the answer to that question.

3. Be Professional

Make sure your work isn’t adversely affected by a romantic relationship. In summary, you don’t have to hide your relationship, but you shouldn’t make your colleagues uncomfortable by displaying it so openly. It is possible that co-workers are looking for bias in the workplace. Meetings should be avoided, daily lunches should be avoided, and acting as a unit should be avoided. In addition, avoid sending personal messages during work time as this may be interpreted as unprofessional behavior.

4. Avoid Office Politics 

A co-worker relationship with a seniority level lower than yours can drastically affect your salary or advancement within your company, particularly when it comes to office romances. Also, to avoid any potential conflicts, don’t date people you work with regularly and routinely.

5. Leave Your Relationship For Outside The Office 

You should not display affection in public at work, regardless of how in love you are. Follow the same professional behavior at work as you would with any other co-worker. It means no holding hands, kissing, affectionate nicknames, or liaisons in the supply closet.

In addition, work should never be a place for fighting or arguing. It is best to resolve personal disagreements outside of the workplace. Colleagues will notice this as well, and it may cause suspicion that your relationship affects your work.

6. Plan For The Worst 

A potential breakup should be discussed at the beginning of the relationship. Be careful not to get into a messy argument. The involvement goes beyond you and your partner. A company’s dating policy and the future of your entire office are potentially at risk. 

The decision to move on has to be on your terms if either of you decides to do so. Make a job search a priority before you have to-and do not use your love life as an excuse to leave your current position.

7. Set Clear Boundaries 

The moment you enter the workplace, your partner must become nothing more than a co-worker. Avoid acting like a couple at work, as this can be distracting and make your peers uncomfortable. Keep all relationship matters out of the office until you both leave. 

You shouldn’t bring your home stress into the workplace, but you shouldn’t bring your work stress into your home, either. You will benefit both your job and your love life if you dissociate these two elements.

8. Make Your Relationship Improve Your Work

There is no doubt that you will feel more comfortable around your significant other than with other peers. Take advantage of the spark that already exists between you to achieve success in your work duties. Your partner knows exactly what he or she is good at or what might be challenging. Whether you’re reminding your partner about a deadline or giving them ideas for a presentation, you can help each other. As much as you support each other outside of the office, you should do the same in the office.

9. Be Aware

Know that you will receive much more attention from your significant other than from others. Innocent flirting with a peer may make your partner jealous when no one else notices. In contrast, other peers may remain unaware of unfair treatment by a co-worker, whereas your partner may become upset. Dating at work can be challenging due to increased sensitivity. Ensure that your actions do not undermine your relationship by causing drama at work.

10. Keep Your Relationship To Yourself 

Your superiors will expect you to be open and honest once your relationship becomes serious. In addition to your boss knowing the truth, your peers do not need to know anything about it. You should keep your private life private. There’s no need to tell everyone you’re dating your partner, why, or how long you’ve been dating him. Keep your romance out of the workplace; external influences can destroy a perfectly good relationship. Never reveal intimate details about your partner to your co-workers, as it can be damaging and hurtful to your partner’s career.

HOW TO DATE YOUR COWORKER

Before dating a coworker, consider these tips to keep the work environment as professional as possible:

  1. Read your employee handbook before anything. Many companies have clear policies on workplace dating and romances, and many of these policies outright forbid employees from pursuing romantic relationships with each other.These policies are in place to ensure that all employees are able to work in an environment that is comfortable, fair, and safe for all. If you don’t want to affect your career, defer to the employee handbook policies.
  2. Spend as much time as possible developing a friendship. Just because you have a crush on someone doesn’t mean you have to jump to dating immediately. In the age of online dating, it can often feel like you need to move things as quickly as possible, but this is a bad strategy when it comes to someone you see everyday.When it comes to dating a coworker, the best strategy is to spend as much time being their friend as you can. Just enjoy their company, personality, and conversation as a friend and really get to know if pursuing them romantically is something you (and they) would want to try.
  3. Be respectful if they turn you down. After you’ve put time into developing the friendship, now’s the time to use your romantic detective skills. Internally investigate the relationship — do they seem interested? Do they flirt with you? Try to be as sure as you can be before making a move.When you do make your move, it’s crucial that you give this person an easy out and make them feel comfortable saying no. Caring about this person means knowing that they have a right to feel socially comfortable at work. Let them know that a “no” for any reason is completely reasonable and understandable.
  4. Decide early on who you will disclose your relationship to. There may very well be a workplace policy requiring you to disclose your relationship to certain people, such as HR professionals. If this is the case, be sure to disclose your relationship to these people early on so it doesn’t seem like you’re trying to hide anything.Trying to hide a workplace relationship can reflect back poorly on you, it can erode trust with others you work with. Make sure you and your significant other/coworker are in sync about what you are comfortable sharing and who with.
  5. Be professional at all times. Now that you’re together and open about your workplace romance, your job is to keep it as professional as possible at work. Really try not to kiss, touch, or be overly-affectionate at your workplace. It could make your coworkers uncomfortable.When you have to work on teams with others, don’t make them feel like they are the third or fourth wheel on a date. Remember, at work your ultimate goal is to do your job well and collaborate well with your coworkers.

WHAT TO AVOID WHEN DATING A COWORKER

  1. Don’t date a supervisor or boss. For many reasons, it’s best to avoid going after your boss or one of your subordinates. The bottom line is that these are professional relationships involving power dynamics where one person has the ability to directly affect the career of the other.There’s no way that you as a manager could ask out a subordinate without inappropriate implied coercion. There’s no way an employee could be in a relationship with his or her boss and not make the other employees feel as though they are getting unfair treatment. In the #MeToo era, just about every company has policies against this kind of relationship. Just avoid it.
  2. Don’t rush into a romantic relationship. While you spend time building a friendship with your coworker, really decide if a romantic relationship with this person seems likely and worth pursuing. Think through the possible scenarios of how this would play out, even worst case ones, and prepare yourself for them.If you’re thinking about hooking up or casual sex with a coworker, we really suggest you don’t do it. This leaves the door open for a lot of awkwardness. Remember you’re going to have to see and work with this person everyday. And most people aren’t as sneaky as they think they are.
  3. Don’t put your coworker in an awkward, uncomfortable, or unsafe situation. Again, this person’s right to safety and comfort at work is paramount. Do not create a hostile work environment. If they say “no”, do not under any circumstances pressure them or ask them again.Maybe your first move could be asking this person along with a group of other coworkers out for dinner. Maybe you could find an event that’s a common interest for you and this coworker and ask them to accompany you as a friend. Go for something that’s very low pressureHowever you do it, try incorporating a phrase such as “…but I completely understand and have no hard feelings if you’d like to keep our relationship purely professional and work-based.”
  4. Don’t keep your relationship a secret. As stated previously, most people aren’t as sneaky as they think they are. If you think you and your coworker are keeping your relationship a secret from others, there is probably a lot of gossip about the two of you. Just keep that in mind.It’s best to open up about your relationship to the extent that you’re both comfortable. However, really be sure to set boundaries with the kind of behavior and language that’s acceptable in the workplace. Others shouldn’t feel free to pry into the personal details of your relationship, and they also shouldn’t be subjected to witnessing any PDA at work.
  5. Avoid bringing your relationship drama into work. When you walk into the office, leave your personal fights and drama at the door. Don’t put the people who have to work with you in an awkward position by involving them in your personal drama.If you break up, it’s important to keep the relationship civil, professional, and friendly. If you don’t think you can do this, it’s best to avoid the relationship altogether.

PROS AND CONS OF DATING A COWORKER

PROS:

There are a lot of reasons why someone might want to date or have a personal relationship with a coworker, and there are also some upsides to it:

  1. Work is a great place to meet people and find friends as an adult. As an adult, meeting new people and making new friends can be a serious difficulty. There just aren’t that many spaces where you’re consistently around the same people for long enough to develop a friendship. Thus, work can be a great space for socializing.
  2. You and your coworkers already have so much in common. Your coworkers get you and your situation in a way that others can’t. You can commiserate about the same people or tasks and know exactly who or what the other person is talking about. You can rejoice in each other’s successes as you work towards a common goal. And you can maybe even get a ride to work.
  3. You just can’t help who you fall for. The main reason people fall for coworkers is because, well, they can’t help it. We like who we like, and when you’re drawn to someone you can’t easily sever that attraction. For many of us, our personal relationships are the most important things in our lives, and not something we would give up our freedom with to seem more professional.

CONS:

There are also a great amount of reasons why you might not want to get romantically involved with a coworker. It is generally suggested to avoid these kind of relationships, for the following reasons:

  1. It can affect your career. Involving your professional life with your personal life can inevitably affect your career. For more on this, check out the “Will it Affect My Career?” section below.
  2. Your other coworkers may have their own opinions. When two coworkers start dating, there can be a lot of office chatter about it. People may judge you or gossip. Some people may dislike you as a couple and avoid working with you or your partner, and some people may think an office romance is inappropriate no matter what.
  3. Things can get awkward quickly. No matter what happens in the relationship, you’re going to have to continue seeing and interacting with them at least five days out of the week (unless one of you quits). There can be cheating, breakups, new relationships, all the risks of a regular relationship. Only with this one, you can’t just block them and move on.

DATING A COWORKER FAQ

  1. What to do after you breakup with a corker?The most important thing to remember after you break up, is that you still have to remain professional at work no matter what. This means no glaring, no aggressive avoidance, no fighting, nothing that affects your or your coworkers’ peace of mind while at work.It can be difficult, but if you decided to go ahead with the relationship, you did take on this risk. Be amicable with your ex-partner at work. This can be seen as simply another challenge to prove your professionalism. If those around you see you handle this situation with grace, they’ll think highly of you.People are going to be curious. Be open about the breakup with the same people you chose to be open about the relationship with. Don’t go into too much detail, but keep them in the loop that your personal relationship has ended and you’ve gone back to simply being coworkers.
  2. Do you have to tell your boss if you’re dating a coworker?Check your company policy before dating any coworker, as it might state you need to disclose the information to your HR representative or your boss. All company policies are different, so make sure you know who to tell first. Of you have to tell your boss or supervisor, it’s important to tell them as soon as possible to avoid any legal issues and possibly being fired.
  3. Can dating a coworker affect my career?If you handle a workplace relationship with professionalism and composure, you will reinforce in the minds of others that this job is something you take seriously. On the other hand if you handle the relationship poorly, yes, it will reflect poorly back on you.For many, mixing your intimate personal relationships with your professional relationships can be too much stress and pressure. You may romanticize your relationship with this person at first or before it happens, but be honest with yourself about how you tend to navigate relationships.If you know you’re someone who has troubled relationship patterns, a history of messy breakups, or other interpersonal relationship problems, you really might want to reconsider.
Alif Vasaya provides expertise in business strategy, community growth hacking, content production, content strategy, digital ads through acquisitions, raising capital, monetizing the Metaverse, NFT affiliate marketing, consulting, and marketing advising for start-up companies.Highly skilled and results-oriented professional with solid academic preparation holding a bachelor's degree in arts and extensive experience in digital marketing, content production, business transformation, and human resource. Proven ability to assess and manage complex obstacles; viewed as a decisive troubleshooter. Successful in intense and demanding environments, providing strong team leadership and structure with a track record of motivating and developing soldiers.

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