What to Consider Before Starting a Romantic Relationship at Work

While it is common to hear “you should never mix business and pleasure”, let’s be honest, many of us spend most of our time and energy at work, so if we chose to follow that saying we would never have the time nor the energy to find a love interest. This article is not written to tell you whether you should or should not start a romantic relationship at work, only you can make that decision, my goal is to have you carefully consider all angles before you decide what is best for you.

Here are some items to consider:

  1. What’s the policy? You need to know your employer’s policies and procedures. Some companies forbid certain behaviors such as supervisors dating those they supervise, some discourage/forbid employees from dating clients/customers, and others require employee relationships be reported to Human Resources. Knowing where your company stands on these issues will help you determine if this relationship is right for you. It is also extremely important that you are aware of the sexual harassment policy, while you may think it is just harmless flirting, you should be informed on how your company (and others who work there) may view it.

  2. Can you handle the gossip? Are you prepared to endure what others might say about you? It’s important to consider if you can handle being the topic of gossip and if you are prepared to handle the office chatter about you and your relationship. Be sure to consider if your love interest will be able to handle what others may say about them as well.

  3. Are you ready for someone from work to know the real you? Many people have a workplace persona which is different from their “real” self. The workplace persona is their professional, often calm, and mostly sane side of themselves, while their “real” self is a little bit more um…shall I say interesting. While there may be aspects of your “real” self that you share with some coworkers, are you ready to let someone from your work environment get to know all of you. This is a serious question because you don’t want to date presenting only your work persona. If you do this, you will get tired and eventually let your “real” self emerge. This will cause strain on the relationship and complaints like “she changed” or “he’s not the same” will begin to cause the relationship to unravel. You don’t want to “spring” your real self onto someone after they have been building a relationship with your persona.

  4. Can you handle if it doesn’t work out? Think about your ex, not the one that you dated for like two minutes and you didn’t really have feelings for, but that one that makes you roll your eyes every time you hear their name. If you can imagine that ex working in the position that your love interest holds, and you can picture yourself continuing to go to work and remain professional everyday then it may not be a problem. However, if you think you would lose your mind, your professionalism, and/or your job, it is probably best to hold off on this relationship until your work dynamics change (i.e. you or they get another job).

  5. Can you handle if it does work out? What if this relationship turns into something real can you handle seeing each other every day at work and after work? Are you the jealous type? Will you lose your professionalism if your love interest is being “friendly” with someone else? Will you still be able to be yourself at work without having to worry about upsetting your new love?

  6. Do you have the discipline to stay focused? If this relationship works out, do you think you can remain focused and productive at work? Will you be distracted constantly running off to interact with your new love? Will you be able to return from lunch on time and get back to work? Will you be able to manage yourself and not show favoritism? Can you keep it professional while at work or will you be tempted to act casual (e.g. using pet names) or even inappropriate (e.g. provocative touching or suggestive language)?

  7. Will pillow talk get you in trouble? – If this relationship works out and you progress into a committed relationship will your private talks and intimate conversations complicate your work environment? If you were to share the stresses of your jobs, or details of your cases/projects/assignments, would it cause drama? Would these types of conversations break policy? If you break up, will the things you shared be a liability? It’s important to ask yourself this question, not to focus on the negative (possibility of breaking up) but to realize how being scared to share certain information may prevent you from being completely open and therefore prevent the development of a truly intimate relationship.

  8. Are you both clear? If you decide to pursue the relationship, do you know how you wish to proceed? Do you want to let people know you are dating or will you be discreet? What will be your decorum at work? What is appropriate banter, touch, and other behaviors (e.g. using pet names)? What will you say to people if they ask about the nature of your relationship? It is important to get some clarity on how you both believe you should proceed in the relationship. You don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings with something you said in an effort to keep the relationship a secret. You don’t want your discretion to be misinterpreted as an insult to the (potential) relationship.

These are all questions to consider before you decide to get romantically involved with someone from work.  You may read these and think to yourself that you don’t know too much about the other person to answer these questions.  This bonus tip is just for you!

Bonus Tip: Group date- Invite your love interest to happy hours, lunches, company bowling nights or golf tournaments, any events to which you go out as a group.  This way you can interact with this person outside of the work environment and determine if you are truly interested without the high stakes and commitment of dating.  Once you cross that relational boundary from coworker to involved it can sometimes be challenging to just go back to being associates or friends.  Sometimes the allure is strictly based on the environment; you watch them excel at their job and it makes them seem so attractive. Change the environment to see if the interest remains.  If the attraction doesn’t remain, then there was no real risk because you were never more than coworkers (who may occasionally flirt). Sometimes people can be great at their job, but horrible in relationships.  Be sure that your admiration is for the person and not the work they do.

Wishing you happy and healthy relationships,

Leilani Ford Chavez

Leilani Ford Chavez is the author of The Relationship Tune-Up, an e-book to help couples spark meaningful conversations, boost intimacy, and ensure that each individual is being fulfilled within the relationship. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and earned a Master of Science degree in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy. Currently, Leilani is the Director of Student Ministries at Antioch Church of Long Beach.

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