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Don't let an office romance be career-ending: Part 1

Dating someone at work can be successful or career-damaging, depending on how we handle ourselves.
Dating someone at work can be successful or career-damaging, depending on how we handle ourselves.
Microsoft

With Valentine’s Day approaching, it seems like a good time to discuss the topic of office romances. Most of us spend at least one-third of our lives at the workplace, which means we also spend at least one-third of our time with co-workers. It’s no wonder that many folks end up dating people they work with and even if we didn’t meet at the workplace, we might still find ourselves working with our significant others.

That said, it leads us to how to have a successful office romance without ending our careers. First, the most obvious rules to follow:

  • Don’t date the boss or subordinates. Any kind of situation where someone in the relationship has ultimate say over the other person’s performance is a disaster waiting to happen. Not only could it turn ugly if the relationship ends, but others will always be wondering if there’s preferential treatment going on.
  • Be wary of the other person’s marital or dating status. Breaking up a relationship to start a new one can have negative consequences, including the labels of “home wrecker” or “trouble-maker.”
  • Don’t engage in excessive PDA (public displays of affection) at work. Our co-workers don’t want a front row show or preview of what goes on in our relationships. Also goes without saying to not engage in sexual behavior that involves a parking garage, bathroom, or broom closet. It might seem like an exciting idea at the time, but it’s unprofessional and a co-worker is likely to walk in and see or hear what is going on. This is not fun for them or the human resources professional that ends up involved in a sexual harassment or hostile workplace investigation.
  • No matter what is going on in our personal lives with each other, keep it out of the workplace. As adults, we’re expected to do our jobs and to be professional about it. Working well with each other includes our significant others even if we had the fight to end all fights that morning. Also goes without saying to deal with domestic issues behind closed doors and away from co-workers (if it has to be dealt with right then and there) or outside of work.

Stay tuned for part two of this article, which will review tips on how to successfully share the office space with significant others.