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When Is A Workplace Relationship Truly Worth All The Risks?
by Rachel G. Baldino, MSW, LCSW for A generation or two ago, dating in the workplace was quite frowned upon by many people. And in the wake of so many sexual harassment lawsuits, some companies actually have put specific policies in place when it comes to dating at work-policies which, generally speaking, may be advisable to follow by anyone who wants to keep his or her job.

But these days, given how much time many individuals spend at the office, more and more people have become more accepting of the fact that co-workers sometimes date, fall in love, and in some cases, even end up getting married.

To give you a sense of just how accepting many people now are about the idea of people dating in the workplace, the editors at the relationship website conducted a survey in which they found that an overwhelming 75% of respondents contend that it is perfectly fine to date a co-worker (as long as the relationship does not interfere with either individual's job performance).

Now, the other 25% of their survey respondents sang a very different tune ... and not without reason.

In fact, among the one fourth of respondents who did not think that dating at the office was ever a good idea, their primary concern was the potentially disruptive nature of a workplace break-up.

After all, if two people who work very closely together make the decision to get romantically involved, not only are they taking all the standard personal risks that come with entering a new relationship (opening up one's heart, making oneself emotionally vulnerable, etc.), but they are also taking significant professional risks as well, in the sense that they could be placing their careers (as well as the careers of their colleagues/dating partners in potential jeopardy).

Dating "Above" or "Below" You

While dating someone at work can clearly be very risky, this particular article on the subject contains many useful tips about how to have the best possible workplace dating experience.

workplace relationships

Dating a co-worker can be risky, but some people do so, in spite of all the risks.

And notably, the article also mentions that nearly a third of the people who responded to the survey had either married their co-workers, or they were still dating those individuals at the time that they participated in the survey.

One area that can get quite tricky, according to this article and others, is dating someone who is not a colleague at your exact same level within the company, but rather dating someone who is either your boss or your employee. This situation actually can work out, but it can also present both dating partners with yet another set of personal and professional challenges.

For instance, if there is an active "rumor mill" at your office many people may start to gossip about the situation ... and perhaps not in a terribly flattering way.

Even if the two people involved make every possible effort to behave professionally at all times, and work very hard not to allow their romantic relationship to interfere with any of their work responsibilities, they may have to accept with the possibility that not everyone in the company will approve of their union.

Therefore, knowing the sometimes insidious nature of workplace gossip, it can often be in everyone's best interest not to discuss such a relationship with anyone at the office unless the relationship becomes very serious.

Another potential complication for a manager who dates one of his or her employees is that if things ultimately go sour, the employee may end up-justly or unjustly, depending upon the particular circumstances-accusing the manager of sexual harassment.

This particular possibility should put up a big red flag for most managers, because sexual harassments accusations and/or lawsuits can get extremely ugly and messy for everyone involved.

However, having said that, there are times when bosses and employees fall in love and both parties decide that they are willing to take all of the many risks that come with embarking on such a relationship.

workplace relationships

Only you can decide for yourself if dating in the workplace is worth all the potential risks.

Beware the Workplace Perceptions

Of course, yet another potential problem with allowing your heart (rather than your mind) to be your guide in the workplace environment is that you may end up being perceived by employees and/or colleagues as foolish, flighty, impulsive, unprofessional, unreliable ... and perhaps even worse.

If you are seriously thinking about dating someone at work, please ask yourself this important question: Is this a person that I could really see myself getting serious with at some point down the road?

If your answer to that question is no, then you truly may want to reconsider.

After all, full-fledged office relationships are one thing. Office flings are a whole other story.

Consider this possible scenario: Two colleagues who have been friends for a while and who feel some mutual physical chemistry get a little tipsy at a party one evening and on a whim decide to go home together. Let's face it: having a one-night-stand with someone you have to face at work day in and day out can truly make things awkward and difficult for both of you for quite a long time.

Given all of the potential problems that can come with dating someone at work, is it ever a worthwhile thing to do?

Well, sometimes, believe it or not, the answer can be "Yes."

So when, exactly, is a workplace relationship worthwhile, despite all of the very real potential risks involved?

  1. If you have tried but you simply can't get the person out of your mind, and you think you may be falling head over heels in love.

  2. If the other person feels exactly the same way you feel.

  3. If you both can continue to behave totally professionally in the office at all times ... no matter what is going on in the context of your romantic relationship at any given moment.

  4. This one is a biggie, and it is alluded to in the informative article that I cited above: As unromantic as this may sound, at the very beginning of the relationship, the two of you must discuss the fact that, despite both of your highest hopes, the relationship could conceivably come to an end. And you both need to agree that if it does end, you will not allow the dissolution of the relationship to affect your job performances in any way.

  5. That said, please know that in reality the above suggestion can sometimes be much easier said than done. Given just how terrible a break-up can sometimes feel, one or both of you may ultimately not feel comfortable staying at your current workplace if the relationship does end. In other words, if things don't work out, you could end up feeling compelled to give up a job that you enjoy very much and/or need to hang onto from a purely financial perspective, a possibility that should serve as yet another reminder of just how high the stakes can be when it comes to dating relationships in the workplace.

Recommended Reading:

Are You Being Bullied At Work?

Why Networking Is Your Golden Key To A Better Life

You Really Can Die From A Broken Heart


Dating In The Workplace

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