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Office romance: Should you or shouldn't you?

Published On: Jan 15 2012 11:46:07 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 07 2014 09:22:18 AM CST
online dating computer mouse

Laura Nubuck/SXC

Perhaps the new girl in cubicle four keeps walking by and making small talk. Maybe the boss' extra attention has less to do with the quality of work than the quality of working it. Maybe, just maybe, you're considering an office romance?

Stop!

An office romance seems like a great idea when the secretary bends over to throw something away or when Tad the sales accountant strolls out of the office in his spandex racquetball shorts.

An office romance also may seem like a great idea when it's quitting time, you're lonely and it's happy hour.

But before hormones, loneliness and alcohol take over, you may want to consider the consequences of starting a workplace fling. Here are five important things to consider first ...

Couple holding hands

No. 5: The company policy

Most companies have policies regarding workplace romance. There's nothing more distracting, as you know, then Greta and Herman flirting at the water cooler while you're trying to compile the third-quarter sales report.Scour the company's employee handbook (that's the 375-page manual you signed for but never read) for the company policy on office romances. If there's no policy, then go for it. If there is a policy, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is the person with whom I'm considering an office romance worth the consequences of being discovered?
  2. Does the person with whom I'm considering an office romance need this job more or less than I do?
  3. Am I a more valuable employee than the person with whom I am considering an office romance?

The next consideration focuses on the third question ...

angry businessman worker yelling at ignoring boss

No. 4: The company pecking order

Position within the company plays a role in the success of an office romance. Three categories exist:

  1. Interdepartmental Romances -- Affairs between individuals who work in the same office but in different departments enjoy a high success rate. Trouble may arise, however, when a signature from the shipping clerk, whom you just dumped for her younger sister, is required.
  2. Same Department/Same Job -- These romances are more difficult to hide and the temptation to sneak off in the janitor's closet becomes too strong for some.
  3. Unequal Employment Position -- These are the most likely to implode. Under no circumstances should you date the boss unless you want to be accused of sleeping your way to a promotion or a raise.

And if you're the boss? That's an even stickier situation fraught with peril. If you must follow your heart into such a relationship, go ahead, but be ready for your reputation to take a hit ...

Office gossip

No. 3: Reputation

Any woman who dates the boss risks being considered the office tramp. Any man who dates the boss ain't likely to earn any more respect and will likely be the butt of all jokes come Friday afternoon.

Of course, it will also be assumed that anything you accomplish in the office -- be it raise, promotion or award -- will be attributed to the relationship.

Dating someone of equal rank has its reputation pitfalls, too, especially when the inevitable breakup occurs. The Elmo pajamas, affinity for Oprah, and crying during "Little House on the Prairie" will become public knowledge.

Even if the breakup isn't messy, your co-workers will watch your every move, and if you think that little make-out session in the stairwell escaped surveillance camera detection, think again. And good luck restoring your reputation after that naked picture you attached to an intra-office email the Friday before a romantic weekend getaway becomes fodder for office humor.

That's one office romance inconvenience, but hardly the last ...

disgusted annoyed office worker

No. 2: Inconvenience

The irony of an office romance is most people get into one because it's convenient. It's quitting time. You're lonely. She's lonely. You're feeling frisky. She's feeling frisky. Boom! Next thing you know, you and your heart are working overtime.

The convenience ends the next morning, of course, when you begin lying to your co-workers about what you did the night before and why you were gone two hours for lunch.

It becomes really inconvenient two weeks later when you begin lying to your lover about what you did the night before and why you were gone a half-hour for lunch. Private issues interfere with work issues. Work issues interfere with private issues. You break up and spend the next two months avoiding each other.

It's quite inconvenient.

Maybe it's time for another option ...

singles flirting while grocery store shopping

No. 1: Other options

If you happen to work in the same office as your "soul mate," great, congratulations, go for it.

Most office romances, however, are the result of the following: lust, laziness, boredom. Be honest with yourself. If your office romantic interest is the result of one of these three categories, it's time to consider other options.

Other romance options include online dating (if you happen to hook up with someone from your office at an online dating site, consider it a sign), churches (if it doesn't work out, you can simply switch congregations without taking a pay cut), institutions established for the sole purpose of you meeting someone (this includes, but is not limited to, bars, nightclubs and social clubs) or even the grocery store. Basically, any place but work.

Good luck and happy dating.

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