Office romances – good idea or not?

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With Valentine’s Day just around the corner it seems timely to talk about love and, more specifically, office romances. A 2016 survey by Officegenie.co.uk found that 36% of UK workers had been romantically involved with a colleague at some point during their careers.

Given that we spend so much time at work it’s not surprising that office romances are so popular but, it’s worth thinking carefully before you embark on one as your career and your reputation could be both be at stake.

Dating the boss. This relationship is particularly tricky. Whether or not they say it out loud, your colleagues are likely to believe that you are getting preferential treatment, and allegations of favouritism are likely to be rife. Whether or not it’s true, your colleagues may start to treat you differently and there’s also the likelihood that you’ll be excluded from their conversations in case you report back to your partner.

What if you’re the boss? Dating someone that you manage can, again, lead to accusations of preferential treatment and favouritism from the others in your team. Your partner might feel that they don’t need to work as hard to prove themselves to you which could cause resentment within the team and difficulties if you have to reprimand them.

There’s also the worst case scenario that, if it all goes wrong, you could find yourself on the receiving end of a sexual harassment claim.

So, before you do say yes to a date with someone at work, there are a few issues you might want to consider:

  • Check your company’s HR policies. Some organisations have specific policies in place regarding office relationships so make sure you’re aware of what is and what isn’t allowed.
  • Be upfront about it. While it may be tempting to keep it quiet (particularly in the early days) it’s good practice to at least make your manager aware what is going on so that the relationship doesn’t become a cause for concern.
  • Keep public displays of affection for outside work. It sounds obvious but sometimes, in the first flush of romance, common sense flies out of the window. By the same token…
  • Leave the personal dramas at home. Your colleagues don’t want to witness your arguments or hear your constant bickering while they’re trying to get on with their work.

Office relationships are always going to happen but, as long as they are handled correctly, they shouldn’t necessarily be a cause for concern.

Think about how you are both going to handle your behaviour at work (so no sneaking off for secret trysts) and, although it might seem unimaginable, do think about what will happen if your relationship breaks down. How will you handle this with minimum impact on your work and your other working relationships without creating a potentially hostile work environment?

What are your thoughts on office romances? Have you ever had one or do you think they should be avoided?

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