5 Tips for Navigating an Office Romance


Man, all the responses from yesterday were pretty awesome. I found it really interesting that it seems like plenty of you are just as uncomfortable with casual sex as I am! What's more, I really appreciate all the thoughtful advice. I still haven't made my decision about what to do yet ... but ... I'm leaning in a certain direction. I'll keep you posted; I may even talk about the whole thing once more before the week is out.

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Today ... in the wake of the Letterman business ... shall we talk about dating co-workers?

As someone who works from home and therefore has NO colleagues (and who spent 5 years before that working at a women's magazine, staffed just about entirely by females and gay men), I think the idea of dating someone you work with sounds AWESOME. It's like, you get to know the person a bit more naturally, over the course of many weeks or months, so that if you finally begin to date, you have a real understanding of who he is. That seems like a much more natural road to romance than, say, picking his picture out of an Internet line-up, meeting up for some tequila shots, and then going back to his place so he can pick you up and throw you around his apartment.

Apparently, I'm not the only who has fantasized about this kind of thing: A Jezebel article from 2008 notes that according to a Toronto Star survey "61% of chicks said they've had a crush on a co-worker, and 57% of dudes."

At the same time ... it's clear that dating someone you work with could be a large-scale disaster. If things go bad, there will be no avoiding the person in question. A bad break-up affects your concentration at work regardless, but if you have to see the bozo who has caused your misery EVERY DAY--during every single staff meeting, no less--it's going to be excruciating.

So if you're going to do it, here are a few things to keep in mind to minimize the damages:

1. SIZE MATTERS. As Ask Men points out, having a big office will make it easier to keep a distance from the person in question if things don't work out, whereas a tiny office could help to make things mighty uncomfortable.

2. DATE, UM, HORIZONTALLY. The person you're having nookie with is the head honcho--or your underling? That could have a damaging effect on your career, as an Excelle article notes. "If the focus of your desires is in your line of authority, such as your boss or your subordinate, you're on very risky ground," Jerry Talley, a former Stanford professor and therapist, tells Excelle. "People can lose jobs and get sued. Best to keep your feelings to yourself." In other words, it's a safer bet to date someone who is on the same level as you--a fellow account executive, fellow marketing associate, fellow teacher, etc. Or, even better, date someone from another department: that cute guy you are always bumping into at the coffee station, or the adorable girl who always seems to be getting into the elevator just when you are.

3. KEEP IT QUIET. Help minimize any potential damage by zipping your lip about the whole business till you and your office-mate are officially, like, going steady. So, hold back from sending that inter-office memo about how the IT guy finally asked you out. That way, if the two of you get wasted on tequila shots and end up sleeping with each other on the first night, only to regret it immediately, no one else has to know what went down. And even if you're going on Date #10, there's no reason anyone else in the office has to know about it.

4. CHECK WITH H.R. Some companies have strict rules against employees dating each other. So, before you get yourself in head over heels, you might want to have a confidential, professional meeting with your HR liaison. No need to name names; just ask what the company's policy is.

5. SEE IF YOU CAN HOLD OUT. If there's any chance you or your work-place love are going to be transferring offices, moving to a new company, or taking off to start grad school any time soon, do you best to wait before firing up the romance grill.

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All rightie, lovelies, so now: tell us: have you dated a co-worker? How'd that go? Would you do it again? Do you have some words of wisdom about how to handle something like this?

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