Office Romances: Should They Be Totally Off Limits?

“I just think you cool, full of life.”

My best girlfriend received this email from her coworker. Her older male coworker. Who apparently had a grill. He was asking her out on a date. She responded politely, saying that she didn’t mix her personal and professional life but was looking forward to knowing him in a work environment. This conversation took me back to a dark time: the time of the OFFICE ROMANCE.

In my early twenties, I was dating not one, but two of my coworkers. Do you think this turned out well? Nope. Both these situations ended in disaster, heartache, and my favorite….“bathroom breaks” that could more accurately be described as “cry time-outs.” Most importantly, I’m pretty sure these romances resulted in the loss of all our jobs, thinly veiled as budget cuts.  So, is there any way to navigate an office romance, or should they be totally off limits?

Let’s not lie: a little harmless flirtation can make the workday go by quickly. What’s wrong with running to Chipotle with that across-the-cubicle-cutie during your lunch break? It’s harmless to take a little (lot) longer in the morning to get ready for your office boyfriend. But should it ever go further than that?

No. Unless you are unequivocally, without a doubt, from the bottom of your heart sure that your coworker is your soul mate, don’t go there! Seriously.  No go zone. Take it from me. Let me tell you why clowning with coworkers is pretty much the worst idea ever:

1) It makes everyone else at work uncomfortable.

They aren’t saying anything, but it does. You are freaking everyone out, and they are talking about you behind your back. It’s like third wheeling; no one likes it, and in this case, your entire office is the third wheel.

2) It’s a total distraction from getting your actual job done.

If you’re anything like me, I daydream about my crushes constantly. I have planned my wedding to guys I have only met once, and picked out the names for the children I’m having with cute strangers I’ve seen on Facebook. How can you possibly focus on getting your work done when your real crush is roaming around the office? Take it from me (who has experience)— most of your day will be spent gchatting back and forth, taking breaks flirting in the workroom, or wondering what the other person is doing. Don’t let your job suffer because you feel vibey with your colleague.

3) You can never ever bring your relationship into the workplace.

Keep your relationship at home. Professionalism is of utmost importance, especially if you are going to engage in the nasty with a coworker. If you’re in a fight, leave it at the door as soon as you walk through the office and work together like nothing is wrong. And what about jealousy? Jealousy in varying degrees is a natural part of any relationship. I know that I am crazy jealous. Like, stalker jealous. Like, “get you blacked out so I can go through your phone once you are asleep” jealous. But you can’t get angry when he talks too long to that pretty secretary, or is charming with a client on the phone. Be careful. I wasn’t.

4) So you break up, now what?  Have fun seeing your ex every day!

I dated two of my coworkers. My first breakup—not so bad. But I felt uncomfortable walking around at work afterwards in fear of running into him and having that awkward ex-talk. I would deliberately avoid areas I knew he would be, and I kept my office door shut (which left my room hot and stuffy) so I wouldn’t have to see him. I started going home for lunch so we didn’t have to stare at each other in the workroom. It didn’t make me sad as much as it was a serious nuisance to us both. Plus, I was never allowed my post breakup “looking gross and depressed” days. I still had to look great, every day, because I knew when I was going to run into my ex again. At work. The next day. And every day after that.

My second breakup was horrific. Coworkers took sides, and he ultimately started dating this barely legal assistant (sounds like something you’d watch late at night) who worked with us, which made the situation even worse. I had to see them together ever day—driving to work together, walking around the office, in the workroom—and it nearly drove me to the brink of insanity. I started hiding out in my office and avoiding work related functions, which made me look antisocial and weird. If I could take it back, believe me, I would.

If you can avoid it, do. It’s really not worth it. Even if you get an email from your grill wearing coworker that says “I just think you cool, full of life.” 

You’ll regret it.

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