When Cupid visits the workplace: 6 do’s and don’ts for office romance

Jim and Pam found happiness, ultimately, but the Dunder Mifflin duo dodged a multitude of pitfalls that lovebirds can face on the job. For Valentine’s Day, here’s some loving guidance.

With all the time we spend at the office, it’s no wonder many people find romance at work.

According to The Huffington Post, a typical person spends 13 years and two months at work—more than 25 percent of the average 50-year career.

Sparks may fly with a colleague at some point, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to handle it appropriately.

CareerBuilder has released its annual Valentine’s Day survey, which reveals that office romance hit an all-time low last year. Thirty-six percent of workers reported dating a co-worker, down from 41 percent the prior year (and 40 percent in 2008).

Does that mean we’re relegated to online dating or more old-fashioned means of meeting a special someone? Not necessarily, though dating a colleague can be a minefield.

If you’re dating—or thinking of dating—someone in the office, make sure to abide by these do’s and don’ts for office romance:

Do

  • Know your company’s policies, as many forbid co-workers from dating. So, read up before grabbing that cocktail together.
  • Think twice (or three times) before dating the boss—even if (s)he’s single. If you break up, it could hinder your career aspirations. Even if you don’t break up and it becomes public, one of you might have to change departments (or worse, your boss could be fired for breaking company rules).
  • Keep your personal business separate from business business. No one wants to hear dating antics (good or bad) about your co-worker.

Don’t

  • Date within your department—up, down or across. That’s easier said than done when you’re in daily contact with your co-workers. However, nothing good happens when things end.
  • Bring your personal problems to the workplace. When you spend night and day together, it’s easy to try to get in one more dig from the fight the night before. Or perhaps you get abrupt or argumentative when discussing professional issues. When you’re at work, let it go.
  • Get frisky in the office, including via email. Company email is not private, so assume HR will be reviewing your correspondence. Many companies have cameras in the office, so if you thought HR reading your emails is bad, think about video footage to complement your love notes.

It’s not all bad news for lovebirds, however. According to that same CareerBuilder survey, 31 percent of office romances end in wedded bliss.

Val Grubb is an author, consultant and HR expert. She’s also the workplace coach at Tone Networks.

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