Many people spend more time with their coworkers than virtually anyone else, so it's understandable that a romantic interest may potentially develop at the office. But with sexual harassment in the national spotlight, there's a new concern over what is appropriate workplace behavior. When it comes to love at the office, extra caution is required.
Here are 8 do's and don'ts for handling office romance wisely.
Do be confident in saying "no." Delivering a firm, clear "no" is essential when it comes to communicating your intent. Evasiveness to spare hard feelings can lead to mixed messages. It's important to send a clear signal, aiming to treat others with respect in the process.
Don't get too comfortable. Risque comments, inappropriate jokes and most forms of touch beyond a handshake simply have no place at work. If you are interested in pursuing a relationship with a coworker, develop a friendship outside of work - asking them to lunch or coffee is a good start. If they aren't interested, graciously accept that it was not meant to be. Not every connection is a kismet.
Do know your company's policy. Before a relationship develops, check your employee handbook to see the company's rules on dating. Many businesses have specific policies as a precaution against legal issues, especially relating to relationships between supervisors and their direct reports. Once you know what's at stake, you can decide if the risk is worth it. Be aware that even if dating doesn't violate official company rules, your career could face other negative fall-out if supervisors or colleagues perceive any negative consequences on your work performance as a result of this relationship.
Do begin with the end. Before you dive into a new relationship with a colleague, consider the possible endings. While wedding bells are a possibility, so is a nasty breakup. Think of the various scenarios you could be facing in a month, six months or a year if your relationship ends. If you get to the point where you never want to see the person again, working in the same office will be a problem.
Do be discreet. Make it a personal goal for coworkers to be surprised if they find out that you two are an item. That means no PDAs, hand-holding, pet names or fawning glances. Keep in mind that once you walk in the door you're there to be the best professional you can be. For your career's sake, it's important to avoid creating the impression that you are distracted from your work, slacking off, not fully engaged or even giving your significant other any unfair professional advantages (such as forwarding sales leads to them instead of through proper channels).
Do remember that the Internet is not private. Don't fall for the illusion of privacy when you email personal information. Whatever you do on your work laptop is company property. Save it for your private accounts after-hours. You should also use discretion on social media.
Do remain a team player. You may only have eyes for your new love, but remember, you still must interact with other coworkers. Maintain your relationships with other coworkers. Continue having lunch or going for happy hours with others in the office. Avoid going out of your way to work with or sit by your significant other.
Do make a clean break. Dealing with the emotional fallout of breakups is hard enough without doing it at work. Stay professional and process your feelings outside of the office. If you find it's too difficult to continue to work near your ex, look into the possibility of a transfer or even a new job.