How To Date a Coworker Without Ruining Your Career or Your Relationship

If you haven’t seen this week’s Mindy Project, stop reading immediately if you’re worried about spoilers.

For those of you who have seen it, I’m of two minds about the Mindy/Danny situation, and I hate that we have to wait til April to see how things play out.  On one hand, the two have obvious chemistry and I’m glad the show isn’t making us wait like, seven seasons to see what happens. On the other hand, I really liked their friendship and I’m not sure how I feel about that turning into something more.  Whatever happens, I’m looking forward to seeing it, as the show does a good job of playing with rom com tropes rather than just doing what’s expected.

All that said, regardless of what happens, I am worried about what might happen with the dynamic of the show since Danny and Mindy and everyone else work together.  Dating coworkers is nothing new on TV, but that doesn’t always make it a good idea, on TV or in life.  Every article ever written on dating coworkers will tell you it’s a bad idea, but in the same article will also tell you that 9000% of marriages began as office romances. As someone who’s seen some office romances lead to the altar and others crash and burn, here are my tips for successfully negotiating the treacherous waters of workplace romance.

Consider how it will affect your career.

If this is your summer job waiting tables or folding T-shirts, fine. If this is your job at a company you’re excited about working for and want to build a career at, take a pause.  I’d love to pretend that double standards don’t exist, but they do, so you’re going to want to make absolutely sure people are going to be looking at you as the awesome employee that you are and not think that you’re only working in order to snag a husband, or that you’re getting any preferential treatment because of who you’re dating.  Absolutely never, ever date your boss or anyone you’d want to give you feedback on your next performance review.  Even if it’s someone at your level in another department, you still want to be known as “Sally, who’s killing it in marketing” not “that girl who dates Dave in accounting.”

Know your drama level.

You know how you are in relationships.  You know the level of contact you want, what you’re looking for, you know how you deal with breakups. Now insert all of that into your work environment.  If you’re super chill, perhaps go for it.  If you’re the type who’s going to throw a screaming fit because he forgot your 2 month anniversary, question if that’s something you should be doing at the office.

Make sure you have an outside support network.  

For some people this might not be a problem, but if you derive the majority of your social network from work, adding an office relationship to the mix can be too much –   your friends are at work, your boyfriend is at work, your work is at work.  Make sure you have some sort of non-work outlet for when you need to get away, because venting about work to your coworker who is also your boyfriend can get to be a lot.

Have an exit strategy.

No one wants to consider that things might end when starting a relationship, but in this case, you need to.  If things don’t work out, will you still be able to work with this person?  If you’re the kind of person who can’t stand to so much as see an ex, are you each going to have set hours you can use the cafeteria?

Don’t pretend it’s a secret.

In the early stages of things, you might be tempted to keep your office romance under wraps.  Maybe you want to make sure it’s going somewhere before you reveal your relationship, maybe your company has a strict anti-fraternization policy.  If it’s the latter, you’ve got some hard thinking to do, because here is the thing:  you’re probably terrible at being sneaky.   You may think you’re acting completely professional and no one suspects a thing, but two things are true: people love office gossip, and being in the early stages of a relationship causes your brain to not work properly.  If you don’t have to keep things secret, don’t, because eventually you’ll feel like an idiot when your coworkers are like “Obviously we knew that it wasn’t a coincidence that your cat happened to get sick the exact same long weekend Dave was on that ‘boys trip’ and you both came back on Monday looking super tan and giddy.”

Set boundaries.

So you’ve decided to take the leap and date someone from work.  Now it’s time to figure out where your professional relationship ends and your personal relationship begins.  Ideally you don’t discuss your relationship at the office at all, and you can decide how much work you’re willing to talk about in your free time, but figure out what’s realistic and workable for both of you.

Above all, keep it professional.

Sure it’s cute to make googly eyes at your significant other if you’re Jim and Pam or Leslie and Ben, but you are not.  You’re a person who has to work with other people, and while they know you’re dating someone in the office, they don’t want to watch you kissing in the copy room.  Just keep being awesome at your job, and save the relationship stuff for outside the office.

The fact of the matter is this:  if I could say one word about dating coworkers, it’s “Don’t.”  If I could say two words, they’re “Seriously, don’t.”  However we’re all human and chemistry is a difficult force to contend with, so as long as it’s not going to actually get you fired or completely derail your career aspirations, then go for it, but be smart about it.  I sure hope Mindy and Danny are.

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