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March 10, 2009


We all have our own awkward office situations. How would you handle the following?

Embarrassing situation #1: Your interoffice romance is uncovered.

It's not absence, but proximity, that makes the heart grow fonder. Dating someone in the office is tempting, but it's more complicated than one might think. Whether it's a casual fling or "the real thing", plenty of issues are bound to come up.

If they're trying to develop serious relationships, few culprits actually want their coworkers to know about their love lives, and few enjoy seeing their relationships turn into a topic of watercooler banter. But sometimes the truth gets out. Someone catches you holding hands in the elevator. A chatty intern notices you tend to take the long route just so you can pass by your beloved's cubicle. Worst case scenario - you're having a romantic night out and you just happen to bump into your boss.

How do you deal with it? You could try the presidential approach (deny, deny, deny), but if you're caught red handed, so to speak, it won't do any good to try and cover it up. If your boss finds out, the best thingn to do is explain that your relationship is something to be taken very seriously. Emphasize the fact that, like any other romantic relationship, it is conducted outside of the office.

You're not home free yet. If you work with each other on a daily basis, people will find it hard to believe that it's all work and no play. For example, Carla and Nathan were together before they got hired at the same company, but in different departments. Everyone knew about their relationship, but thought nothing of it until the two of them ended up working on the same project. Says Carla: "If it's just the two of us working, people joke that we're making goo-goo eyes at each other and planning to sneak off into the closet - even if we are discussing work-related stuff. It's funny the first time, but in the end you feel like people take you less seriously."

If you're involved in an office romance, the best way to avoid problems is to head them off at the pass. Amelia, whose boyfriend works in the same office, advises "Just don't write or call up and say anything you wouldn't write or say to a friend, and you'll have nothing to worry about."

Embarrassing situation #2: You get caught looking for another job

If you're not as lucky as P&G workers on special assignment (their up-or-out policy provides the nearly departed with an office, a phone, and two months to look for a new gig), you might be sneaking in a little job seeking during the work day. It's the age of the "passive job seeker", right? Most surf the Web in the name of company research. The more proactive might even fax out some resumes - right from the office. Risky business, but most perpetrators know enough to cover their tracks.

But what if you get caught? Paula, an executive assistant, faxed out several resumes from work late one night, only to get caught in the act by her boss, who had come back to the office to pick up some papers. Not a pretty situation. "I was stuck, but I told my boss the truth," Paula explains. "I told him I was looking for a more challenging job. I had been working there for a year and I basically felt brain dead. My boss was actually cool about it. He knew I was right, and he was actually happy for me when I finally left for a better job." Luckily, Paula was serious about leaving, and she had a boss who understood and respected her ambition. Another boss may not have been as understanding, and the situation could have been much more uncomfortable.

The best way to avoid getting caught is to do your job searching at home. At the very least, try to limit the amount of evidence you create. Don't print anything, don't use company e-mail to send resumes, and don't fax anything from the office. If you don't have a computer or a fax machine at home, try going to the library, to Kinko's or an Internet cafe. Get a free e-mail account and have companies contact you there.


Filed Under: Workplace Issues