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by Cathy Vandewater | February 06, 2013


Plus: real input from people who have been there!

February has rolled around, and that brings the mid-month occurrence we're all hot and bothered about: the release of Vault's annual Office Romance survey!

Just kidding: we mean Valentine's Day! (But also a little bit of the survey… check back for that next week).

With all the heart shaped chocolate and red construction paper abound, you might be glancing around your cubicle with the look of love. But before you hone in on that cute colleague, take stock of your situation, romantically and professionally. Workplaces are more casual now, but a risk is still a risk, and you'll want to enter a tricky situation with a clear head.

A few questions to ask yourself before moving forward:

1. Is it serious?

You know how this works: there's the infatuation, gotta-have-him-or-her stage, then there's the cooler, more clear headed, oh, I'm-really-starting-to-like-this-person stage. Wait until you're in the latter. You can't know until then if 1. This romance is worth risking your job over, 2. It has any chance of lasting, and 3. it's really want you want--or just an itch out of boredom or dissatisfaction elsewhere in your life.

2. What would I regret more: losing the job, or losing the relationship opportunity?

Sometimes, it really does come down to a choice: which would I rather put on the line? If you're on the career fast track and really loving every minute of it, you might want to let go of a potential relationship at work. At best, it will be distraction for much of your work days. At worst, it could wreck your reputation and ultimately, your career trajectory.

If, on the other hand, your S.O. to be is the brightest part of your work day, and you really feel like you might be missing out on a future with that person, remember that jobs come and go—and love could potentially outlast all of them.

3. How closely do we work together?

Think of it in terms of traffic signals. Work together? Yellow light. Work in different departments or divisions? Green light. Does one of you directly report to the other? Red light.

4. Are we mature enough for this?

Exercising a successful workplace union requires a lot of self control. That means no kicking the copy machine if you two are fighting, no midday make-out sessions in the mail room, and no Fatal Attraction-style take downs if one of you dumps the other.

Think it over carefully—can you handle it? Can your partner? If you're not sure, either start trolling for other romantic interests, or other jobs.

5. What's our company policy on this?

You may find out it's not allowed and do it anyway, but at least you won't be blindsided by the possible consequences.

6. What's the plan for if the feeling isn't mutual?

Maybe you're interested in somebody at the office, but you're not sure if they are. If that's the case, tread lightly—and have a damage control plan. The last thing you want to do is nag somebody who's uncomfortable with the extra attention and end up with a sexual harassment complaint.

7. What's the plan for if we break up?

It's best to get this out of the way from the beginning—before there are any problems in the relationship, and the mrere mention of a "prenup" could be contentious. Draw up rules together for behavior at work, no matter what's going on at home, print it out, and sign it. Hopefully you'll never need it. But if you do, it could be a job-saving measure should things sour.

8. What's the plan for if we stay together?

Happy endings can be surprisingly complicated. What if you move in together? Get engaged? Get married? Do you still want to be working in the same office and going home for dinner together? Do you tell your colleagues? Or keep your privacy? Does one or both of you quit?

By thinking ahead a little, you can avoid some of the worst consequences of office romance, but still reap the best possible benefit: a chance at true love.

Here's a sneak peak at some survey results. We asked readers like you if, had they ever dated a colleague, they would ever do it again. Here's what they said:

"Yes": (all sic)

-"You bet! It is a fun and exciting dynamic to the workplace."

-"As I get older, I realize there is no need to "comply" with a procedure that abruptly contradicts human emotion (FYI, I'm single.. Married people may have issues with offfice romances)"

-"sometimes its a stress reliever!"

-"Hypothetically -- the office is one place where you see most aspects of a person, so what you see in the workplace is often a good indicator of how they will be in a relationship."

-"Life is too short and should not be lived based on what other people think or feel.  "

-"Work looooong hours, am exhausted by the end of the day, and have no energy on the weekends.  Work is only place to meet anyone"

-"I can't help it..."

-"It was alot of tun and it never got in the way of work, but I sure did want to go to work!!"

-"You only live once, but you should try to keep it on the low and see what happens, not proclaiming it to everybody the first thing you do."

-"Working with someone gives you a chance to see who they really are in their day to day life--not just dressed to the nines at a club, showing off. You see them on their good days, their bad days, under stress, working with both bosses and interns... if you really like someone after working together, chances are it's the real deal. Don't take it lightly, but don't let fear of complications stop you."'

-"I found the love of my life taking this risk and I wouldn't change it for the world.  Jobs come and go but true love that works is hard to find."

And perhaps, the most telling response:

-"I would happily trade a job for a happy relationship."


-"It has made the common space uncomfortable, it has made conversation short, and we have stopped hanging out outside of work all together."

-"No, so annoying to have to look at and interact with the person once it is over."

-"It is not worth the risks involved - office jealousy, rivalry and potential harrassment and  legal issues. There are lots of fish in the sea, so why fish at your company's pond?"

-"its not worth the damage to my credibility."

-"I would take it slower until I am sure it's worth it."

-"HELL NO - who wants to get death stares when going to the bathroom? Or having to listen to im chat's about how terrible you are and if your now flirting with someone else in the office??"

-"too costly, regret"

-"even though my one experience dating someone i worked with was rather short and did not end too badly.  i would never do it again because i had to see that person every day after it went sour.  and caused me to obsess constantly if he would call me or talk to me when i walked by."

-" I put down "yes" because I support them, but of course the answer is "no" because this office romance have been my last - since we are engaged!

Look out for our official survey results next week, and in the meantime, flirt responsibly!

--Cathy Vandewater

Read More:
In Defense of Office Romance
Tips for a Successful Office Holiday Party
Legal Love with Your Subordinate?


Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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