Should you be wary of an office romance?

Whether it is a coy look across the break room, or a flirtation at the office Christmas party, it is commonplace for romance to blossom in the workplace. Recent data from YouGov shows that 18% of Brits found their current or most recent partner at work. However, there can be complications that arise when a colleague catches your eye. So, what should you bear in mind if you are hoping to date a co-worker who you have romantic feelings for?

You can find yourself drawn towards somebody you work with for a number of reasons. You already have something in common in the job you do, and it’s natural to gravitate towards like-minded people with similar backgrounds. You already know much more about this person and their lifestyle compared with a stranger you met on an app or during a night out. Recent data shows even the pandemic failed to stop workplace romances in their tracks, discovering they may have even increased as employees were looking for a connection when they were forced to work from home. Romance still blossomed, even if the only way people could stay in touch was via video calls and messaging apps.

Many consider it to be important to consider the power balance that may come into play with an office romance. Co-workers dating is often viewed as a very different situation to a hierarchical workplace relationship between a manager and somebody who reports to them. It is often viewed as important to report a relationship with a power imbalance to the HR department or a line manager, so they are aware of what’s going on. Some organisations in the US even have ‘love contracts’ to keep office romances in check, requiring both dating parties to sign to state the relationship is consensual and they are aware of company policies on sexual harassment and workplace ethics.

If you are dating a peer, issues can arise with your fellow co-workers when they suss out what has been going on. They may feel uncomfortable if your relationship is overtly on display, plus they may feel you are no longer efficiently working as a team if you favour each other’s contributions at every meeting. It can help to leave your romance firmly outside of the workplace by not sitting together in meetings and avoiding eating lunch together every day. Public displays of affection at work are a big no-no, as are screaming rows.

Fears of being judged leave many couples deciding to keep their relationship a secret from colleagues, which can also breed resentment if other team members suspect something is going on between the two of you. You can face gossip If you’re the lower status person in a relationship with your manager. There may also be career roadblocks to contend with if you are overlooked for promotion and training opportunities due to fears you will be seen as being favoured unfairly.

Sadly, relationships do come to an end and there’s the issue of how handle your working relationship if you’ve parted ways. Even if you’ve only shared a few dates, it can be awkward to have to face each other every day if romance did not blossom. If it is tough to work together after a painful split, it may be possible to request a transfer to another team or location. You may even decide to leave your role for another job, potentially having to say goodbye to a position you loved. If the relationship endures then you might consider it sensible for one of you to pursue a new role to separate your work and love lives. Office romances will always be part of life, the key is managing them correctly, so your careers and budding relationships are not negatively impacted. Be aware of the etiquette about making a relationship work when you both spend the day in close proximity and be mindful of how colleagues may feel about the pairing. Meeting somebody special is always exciting and it’s imperative you manage the work implications to ensure you have the best chance of making it work in the long run.

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