I know what you’re thinking: Doesn’t it go without saying that you shouldn’t date someone from work? Isn’t it against the rules, or at least frowned upon? More often than not, doesn’t it turn into a complete disaster?!!
Not necessarily. At least, it didn’t for me. I met my future husband at a newspaper we both worked for — I was on staff as a features reporter, and he was a freelance photographer. Although we didn’t spend much time in the office together, as he mostly only interacted with reporters while on assignment and then sent his work in remotely, we still faced a lot of what people do when they have interoffice romances. We shared coworkers and bosses, sometimes we worked together and, although there wasn’t a rule against dating in our situation, there were other factors involved that we had to navigate with care.
We’re still in love and happily married, so I’m a believer that interoffice dating can work out. But I’ve also seen it end badly. I have friends who have sworn off dating coworkers completely, after their interoffice relationships ended, and other friends who won’t give it a shot, even though they’ve never tried it. And I get that. But, if you’re crushing on someone from work and they like you, too, I want you to know dating a coworker doesn’t have to become the latest gossip at the water cooler (or, if it does, the awkwardness can at least be mitigated). And, even if you breakup, your work life doesn’t have to become a huge mess. If it’s something you want to try — and isn’t against the rules at your workplace — here are a few ways to date a coworker without turning it into a crazy big deal at the office.
Keep it quiet
At least until you know what your relationship is, keep what’s going on private. Just because your coworker kissed you at the office holiday party doesn’t mean you’re going to live happily ever after. Are you dating? In a relationship? Do they want others to know? Do you? Make sure you and the person you’re interested in are on the same page before communicating what’s going on to people at the office. If it’s not serious, there’s probably no need to tell anyone. Of course, you can tell whomever you want, it’s your business, but if you do, make sure the people you tell can be trusted to not gossip or cause any problems for anyone involved.
It should be mentioned that you don’t always have the option to keep your relationship private. Some companies have rules requiring employees to share relationships with human resources or management. In my case, I had to tell my editor I was dating my then-boyfriend because before we were dating I had pitched a story about a nonprofit he founded to teach photography to low-income students. I hadn’t formally interviewed him yet, but when the time came for me to begin working on the story, I had to tell my boss about the relationship. It would be unethical for me to write a news story about my boyfriend. Once I told my editor, she assigned another reporter to cover the story. Whatever your situation may be, it’s important to know what protocol is for interoffice dating and to act accordingly.
Keep it professional
Whether people you work with know you’re dating a coworker or not, it’s important to keep your interactions with your beau professional when you’re on the clock. No PDA, no favoritism — you get the idea. In the same vein, if people know you’re dating a coworker and they are excited for you, they may want to chat about it at work. It’s up to you if you want to engage in this kind of talk or not, but remember that you’re still at your job. So if it’s normal for you to discuss your personal life and whom you’re dating with coworkers or even a boss, go for it, but don’t do it anymore than you normally would just because they know the person. You still have boundaries, and you’re still a professional; dating a coworker doesn’t change that.
Keep the future in mind
How great is it to meet someone you’re totally into who also has the same interests as you, or at least understands what you’re going through at work? It’s really cool. But — you knew there was going to be a but, right? — try to remember that your romance might not last forever. Be sure to talk to your office love and set some ground rules for how things should be handled if the relationship ends. That is, if this person isn’t someone you’d trust to treat you respectfully at the office if you breakup, you may not want to be dating the jerk in the first place.
The way you behave while dating and if you ever breakup sets the tone for how coworkers will behave around you two. If you tell everyone and their mother at work that you two are soul mates and you can’t imagine living without your S.O., then it’s going to get pretty awkward if the relationship ends. Pity is probably the last thing you’ll want in that situation, even if you feel terrible. Similarly, if you and your ex can continue to be civil and professional in light of the breakup, people around you will probably not make such a big deal about it. If you both can be at peace with the situation, the breakup will probably blow over sooner than it would otherwise.
If you decide to move forward with an interoffice romance, being intentional about it can help make the situation go as smoothly as possible, whether you stay together or not. Remember, dating someone you work with doesn’t have to end in tragedy. It can work out and, when it does, you’ll have so many shared experiences and friends. Dating a coworker is risky, no doubt about it, but it can also totally be worth it.
(Image via Paramount Pictures)