Office Romances and the 3 Mistakes You'll Make


Yes, I know she's "not like the others."

Yes I know he's cute, kind, smart, and smiles like he can read your mind.

But...

There's often no better way to find a compatible match than at the office as a recent study has shown. You get to see how they work, deal with stress, and interact with others. You've chosen the same career path so you have built-in commonalities. And they're sitting right across the cubicle from you so how's that for a short commute? It's how Barrack met Michelle. How Ashton met Mila. How I met the mother of my daughter. So I can't knock it.

But...

You need to think about this one. Really think. Because an office romance is a risk to your career. (Notice I said it is and not can be?) But like any great risk, in can bring great rewards so you just need to be smart about how you go about it.

Mistake 1: Working together and not "working together"

One of my first corporate jobs was for a large company that hired recent college graduates for their management trainee program. But they might as well have called it a dorm party in suits. Young well-dressed, well-educated professionals in the big city: it was nearly impossible to avoid office romances. And there were many of them. But only one guy I knew did it right.

"You know Mary in accounting?" my friend asked. "Well we've been dating for the past year." I was shocked. I never once saw them out together or even chatting casually at work. But that was their agreement. Pretend like they didn't know each other.

But they could do that because their daily work interaction was little to none. Still some companies have strict no fraternization rules that aim to prevent that for a few reasons. Married couples, siblings, and parent and child employees seem to get treated more liberally, particularly if they work in different departments

Mistake 2: Not separating your head from your heart.

Taking it to the extreme, I think those who work in bars, clubs, and restaurants have it the worst when dating a co-worker. In some establishments, their (unwritten) job description calls for both male or female employees to flirt with the patrons. Could you watch when patrons flirted back?

"I work in a professional office. I don't have to deal with such things." 

Oh is that so? Most might consider it harmless. There are bigger offenders than others. And it can get ugly and turn to sexual harassment or promotion nepotism, but flirting with co-workers happens in offices. Every. Day. Compliment a co-worker on that great suit will be taken quite differently on who you are and who you're saying it to. I've had some pretty bawdy things thrown my way.

I'm willing to bet that many wouldn't even consider what they do as flirting and just call it a friendly hug or banter among work mates. Your spouse or significant other might have a different take if they witnessed it. So would the boss. Be honest with yourself.

And if you're involved in an office romance, you will change the work dynamic. It will change how your boss interacts with you and your office mate. Your coworkers will deal with you differently. Granted it's not like bringing a date to the office party instead of your spouse, but watching you make loving looks across the room can be quite distracting.

Mistake 3: Not having an exit strategy.

Think of the promising first dates you had that fizzled quickly. One or both of you decided it wasn't right and just stopped calling and texting. No harm, no foul. Not so easy to do when you work together. You hear the the exit strategy term used by the military, but so should those involved in an office romance.

You have to consider what you will do ahead of time if the romance doesn't work out. And most don't. If you're lucky, you'll both be adult about it and be able to move on. If not, well...are you willing to be transfered, relocate, quit? Sound drastic? Then you've never been in the situation. A failed office romance can eat away at you when you're forced to see them every day. You need to discuss ahead of time what the plan is.

Truth be told, I made all three mistakes when I was younger but learned my lesson. Hmm. Maybe that's why today I choose to work at home alone?

Follow Frank Bocchino, a Los Angeles-based writer, designer, and digital marketer who helps organizations create qualified strategies that generate new business using the latest tools for lead generation, SEO, and social media.

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