Workplace dating isn’t as uncommon as you might think. In fact, a recent survey revealed three out of four people have gotten involved with a coworker!
Now, just because a lot of people seem to engage in an office romance doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right path for you. While every circumstance is unique, if you find yourself flirting with a coworker or wanting to ask someone out at work, we recommend reflecting on a few aspects before letting a relationship potentially interfere with your work.
In our guide on workplace dating, we’ve outlined a list of questions to ask yourself and your coworker if you’re considering exploring a romantic relationship together. From inquiring about company policies to discussing what might happen if you break up, run through these questions before taking it to the next level.
1. Does Your Company Policy Regarding Workplace Dating?
First things first, it’s best to check your company employee handbook. This document should outline any rules and regulations regarding office romance. In some situations, a company may allow workplace dating with certain restrictions, while others may outright prohibit it.
It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your company’s policy from the get-go, so you know what kind of retributions you might face if you continue with your relationship.
2. Are You Both Aware of the Risks?
The thought of finding love at work may seem appealing, but it does come with its fair share of risks. Let’s say you find out that your employee handbook forbids office romance. You and your partner could face consequences if you get caught, which could range anywhere from getting placed on probation to losing your jobs.
Another potential consequence of workplace dating is the impact it could have on your reputation. Some coworkers may find that your relationship lacks professionalism, while others might think you’re engaged in this relationship to get ahead at your job. Even if there’s no truth behind these rumors, it’s important to consider the lens through which your coworkers see you.
3. Do You or Your Coworker Have Any Influence Over Each Other’s Careers?
This one can get hairy, and it’s partially the reason why many companies have policies regarding workplace relationships.
Think about it: If your office romance is your superior, it could seem like preferential treatment if they were to award you, promote you, or praise you—even if it’s merited. And the same goes for if you were to date a subordinate of yours, as it could ruffle some feathers and even fuel the rumor mill. Or, on the flip side, dating one another could have the opposite effect in that you’re held back from certain opportunities to prevent it from seeming like you are playing favorites.
The last thing you want is for this relationship to ruin your reputation with your coworkers or make it seem like you’re giving (or getting) an unfair advantage.
4. How Might Your Relationship Impact Your Work?
Whether you like to admit it or not, having a crush on a coworker or falling in love at work can be a big distraction. For example, if you get flustered when that certain someone enters the boardroom during your big presentation, that could negatively impact your performance. Or, what if you’re having a lovers’ quarrel at the same time you’re supposed to be partnering on a big project for a client? Will you be able to set your relationship issues aside and focus on the work that needs to be done?
When toying with the idea of dating a coworker, you need to consider whether or not you can keep your work assignments a priority, regardless of what’s going on in your relationship.
5. Can You Separate Your Love Life from Your Work Life?
When you’re dating someone at the office, the lines between your work life and love life can get blurred. For instance, if you have a disagreement with your partner on the way to work, it can be tricky to diffuse the argument when you’re sitting two cubicles away from one another for the next eight hours. And if you’re butting heads over a work assignment, it can be challenging not to bring that home with you.
Because your love and work life are overlapping, you may find it difficult to find a balance between the two. Ask yourselves how you plan to address these issues to prevent them from interfering with your working relationship.
6. Is this Just a Fling or Something More?
Sure, you might really like your coworker, but take some to reflect on whether this office romance is just a fling or something more. If it’s only something casual, you and your coworker may need to discuss whether it’s a good idea to go public with your situation or not. After all, there is a lot riding on this relationship, and it would be a shame to announce it to the entire office if it might fizzle out in the coming days or weeks.
That said, if you both agree you want to take your relationship to the next level, then be sure to discuss how it might impact your current work or the trajectory of your careers.
7. Are You Willing to Go Public with Your Relationship?
Secret secrets are no fun, especially if the HR department isn’t in on them. To avoid jeopardizing your work, we recommend disclosing your relationship to the HR department. This doesn’t have to involve telling everyone at work, but it’s a good idea for the HR department to ensure your office romance aligns with company policies. Depending on your company’s rules, the HR department may ask you both to sign paperwork, agreeing that it’s a consensual relationship.
8. What Will Happen If or When You Break up?
Workplace dating is all fun and games until, well, you break up. Unfortunately, as with entering any relationship, you need to consider the implications of breaking up. If your relationship goes south, what does that mean for your career? Will you be comfortable continuing to share the same workplace, and will you be capable of remaining cordial? Or will one of you agree to leave your place of employment?
It would be a drag to lose both your employment status and relationship status at the same time, but you both need to be prepared for that being a possibility.
9. Are You Open to Establishing Some Ground Rules?
It should go without saying, but just because you’ve disclosed your relationship to HR doesn’t mean you can go around holding hands during meetings and making out in the break room. The same goes for having flirty banter or cheeky interactions that could make your coworkers uncomfortable or, worse, get you in trouble.
Above all, you need to agree to keep it professional, which means making your work your number one priority during working hours—what you do after hours is up to you. To do so, it may involve creating some boundaries, such as limiting your interactions at work and being overly professional when it comes to your working relationship.
10. Are You Prepared to Deal with Gossip?
If you’re dating your coworker, do realize that some gossip will likely come with the territory.
After all, things can get boring at work at times, so employees often flock to any kind of gossip they can get their hands on. And in your case, your relationship could be at the center of all that talk.
Even if you’re doing your best at keeping your relationship professional at work, there still may be some chatter around you and your partner. While there might not be much you can do about it except let it run its course, try to avoid doing or saying anything that will make this topic even juicier for your coworkers. And just remember, it’s just a matter of time until something else catches their attention.