The Office Romance: Pros, Cons, and Cautions

Of course, this is the month for romance —and Valentine’s Day is every florist’s dream holiday. And wouldn’t you know? Savannah, my home, has just been declared by USA Today to be the second most romantic city in the country. If your thoughts are turning to romance right about now, it’s completely understandable!

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Is the person in the next cubicle beginning to look awfully attractive? If so, what should you do? Before you make your first move, give it some thought. If you decide to pursue your interest, you may be jeopardizing both your love life and your career. On the other hand, if all goes well, your job performance may improve and your personal life stands to take a turn for the better.

It is quite common for people in today’s workplace to find their spouse or partner in the office. According to the American Management Association, almost one-half—49% to be exact—of office romances result in marriage or a significant long-term relationship. After all, most people spend more of their time in the workplace than anywhere else. If you choose to make a romantic move, here’s how to be smart:

Know the company policy.

Some companies have strict policies against dating coworkers; others just ignore it. Still others even encourage it. Although most organizations don’t want to intrude on their employees’ private lives, the shadow of sexual harassment looms large. And it is never wise to date someone who is your supervisor or who reports to you.

Set the ground rules.

Discuss early on how you plan to handle the relationship around the office, and what you will do if things don’t work out. While that requires a level of maturity and discipline that is often hard to come by, consider this exercise mandatory if you both want to keep your jobs. Don’t put your career on the line for the sake of a romance that might not work out. Approach with caution.

Consider the effect on your job performance.

Being in love can be distracting. If your focus at work is on the object of your affection and not on your job, you are putting your career at risk. Don’t spend more time in the copy room or at the water cooler than you normally would. On the other hand, job performance could improve when you are trying to impress that other person.

Be discreet and professional.

It is never a good idea to discuss your romantic relationships with coworkers so keep the details to yourself and your non-work friends. People will talk. There is no subject more fascinating than office gossip.

A few extra words of caution about romance in the office:

Observe the one-year rule for dating in the workplace. If you decide to deepen a relationship with a coworker, do it gradually. Start by keeping your interaction casual. Definitely refrain from shopping for china patterns right off the bat.

Be especially cautious if you are new on the job, whether you are pursuing or being pursued. Because you are a new hire, you will be under extra scrutiny. Your boss and coworkers will be watching you closely and observing your professional behavior.

Be wary of email. Remember that email is like the newspaper. Anyone can read it, and someone may. Before you hit “Send” make sure that what you are sending is as professional as you want to appear.

Steer clear of Facebook and other social media sites to post the details of your new-found love. That’s where people go first when they want to pry and spy.

Office romances can be fun, and successful. Take the proper steps, however, to ensure that the relationship will last without interfering with the workplace. The wise couple is careful that any interaction in the office is purely professional. It’s a matter of having your career and dating it, too.

Here’s to finding love in all the right places!

Photo credit (Forsyth Park): Wikipedia