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March 26, 2014

Office Etiquette: Can You Date a Coworker?

Ten rules to keeping life professional.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

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Have a thing for the guy who sits next to the printer? You're not alone. According to a Vault.com survey, 56 percent of American business professionals say they've had some kind of romantic relationship with a coworker—whether that's a random hookup at the office holiday party or a long-term partnership that ultimately led to marriage.

While an office romance might sound like a recipe for disaster (and in some cases against corporate policy), there are ways to make sure the situation doesn't end in heartbreak or employment termination.

1. Don't date your boss. Likewise, avoid starting a relationship with someone who works for you. There's a good chance the person in the position of power will start giving preferential treatment to his or her partner (even if it's subconscious), and other employees may become resentful.

2. Don't date someone thinking it will help you get ahead in the job. You should not get romantically involved with someone thinking it will improve your standing in a particular company. You should rely on your successes and networking to help you get ahead.

3. Find out what the policy is on inter-office dating. Most medium- to large-sized companies have legal guidelines for romance between coworkers. Before you get seriously involved with someone, check with your human resources department and make sure you aren't breaking any rules. If the company absolutely does not allow co-workers to date, you could be terminated if they found out.

Related: 5 Easy Ways to Get a Raise at Work

4. Don't engage in PDA in front of coworkers. Besides the fact that it’s completely unprofessional, it can make your coworkers feel uncomfortable. Wait until after work, when you two can hightail it to either person’s apartment or out for an intimate dinner.

5. Confide in colleagues selectively. If dating at work is allowed, there's no need to send an office-wide memo with a photo of you two in a lip-lock. Realistically, you shouldn’t tell anyone unless you are both comfortable with the people who know.

6. Take extra caution with inter-office communication. It would be beyond humiliating (and unprofessional) for a coworker you aren't dating to get a message that read "Thanks for last night ;)!" It’s best to stick to your personal accounts for any, ahem, personal messages you may be sending to the person you're dating.

Related: When the Boss is FLOTUS

7. Talk to your partner about what will happen if the relationship ends. Have a frank discussion about how you two will act toward each other if you decide to call it quits, so that awkwardness and emotions don't interfere with your ability to get the job done.

8. Chat about topics besides work. Yes, you have that in common with each other, but if you really want to get to know your coworker, see if you can connect on other topics.

9. Don't assume you already know everything about each other. When you log long hours at the office every day, you can probably recite what kind of mustard your coworker takes on a sandwich and exactly how he or she answers the phone. But, once you get together romantically, you might discover the person is actually a commitment-phobe, or a serial monogamist, or isn't that funny after all.

Related: 12 Job Facts Every College Grad Should Know

10. Avoid making office romances a habit. It's one thing if you happen to fall for the person you take lunch with every day. But if you realize that this is the fourth time you've gotten romantically involved with a coworker, not only should you expand your dating pool, but think hard how this could be affecting your career path.


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