Gail Kasper is an Author, Television Host, Certified Fitness Trainer, and Motivational Speaker
"Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night," wrote William Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet, 1.5). But then again, Shakespeare also wrote, "Love is blind." The heart doesn't recognize personal and professional boundaries, the heart only sees the object of its affection, the one and only. Sometimes that one and only is in the workplace.
Find yourself wondering if you should date that guy or girl in the next department? What about dating your boss or your secretary? To do or not to do office romance is an excellent and loaded question. There are many things to consider when forming an opinion about dating at work. It isn't as cut and dried as being wrong or right, unless it is against company policy (although that is rarer than it used to be). It is definitely a hues of gray topic. Many people are firmly against romance in a professional setting, while others support it staunchly as a personal choice. Truth be told, you must consider who you are and your own situation in detail before deciding the answer to this question.
Guiding you to the answer is easy enough, though mind you it is still your own decision in the end. And no, this isn't a simple pros and cons sort of analysis. Yes, you do need to look at the simple positives and negatives, but you must also consider the specifics of your personal situation. The question may be moot, if you have already met your "someone," and are in love. If you are merely experiencing an attraction then you should even more carefully explore the options.
What is the Company Policy about Employee Relationships?
First of all you should get a written copy of your company policy on employee dating and relationship. Read it carefully. It may involve semi-complex stipulations that affect work assignments, performance reviews, promotions and more, when dating direct reports or superiors. Relationships may only be prohibited between those in the same department or in supervisory-supervisee roles.
Why is Office Romance so Common?
Whether policy allows for or forbids office romance, there are a number of reasons why office romances flourish. The main reason is proximity. It is expedient and convenient to date someone you already know. You know if you are attracted to them, you know what they are like, and you probably have related interests, similar backgrounds and education. If you are peers you may even be close to the same income level. You probably have a lot in common. So work is a natural place to make romantic connections.
Do consider that although a natural place to discover love, it may not be the best place. If you are on the fence about office love then don't hurry into a decision. If you have already entered a relationship, or have decided to, hopefully you and the apple of your eye are capable of handling the situation. Whether the relationship works out or not there are important points you should consider. The situational review is simple as I said. Think about your professional environment, the possible consequences of a personal relationship in a professional setting, and then how you and your potential partner will respond if conflict arises.
Firstly, your work environment may have a formal policy against coworkers dating at any level. Then again, the company may only prohibit dating between co-workers at differing levels. There are a number of reasons for this, including the desire to avoid situations that could be interpreted as sexual harassment or demoralizing to one or more members of the organization.
The Stress of Secret Workplace Love
If your company prohibits relationship between all employees, you will have to worry about keeping your relationship a secret. Can you handle that emotionally? Can you face never being open to friends and peers about the relationship status and how you feel about your love interest or partner? How will it be to "pretend?" Can you face a series of office parties, company picnics, and other events where you will be forced to keep a professional distance and "hide" your love? What if another coworker is vocal about feelings of attraction for your one? How will you handle that? And if office romance is simply frowned upon at your work place… are you prepared judgments, gossip and possibly teasing or comments from coworkers?
You and your partner may be in competition. How will you handle issues around career advancement? Or what will you do if one of you has to fire, reprimand, or supervise the other. If your relationship is secret, higher ups may mistakenly give one or the other of you professional power that could harm both your working and professional relationships and ultimately lead to the loss of both your positions.
Can I get a Little Office Space?
Another consideration particular to love between coworkers, is the lack of space in the relationship. You will see each other frequently, if not constantly. What affect will this have on the health of your partnership? Friction or irritability can develop between partners who do not get enough time away from each other. An office romance could mean working and playing together as well as carpooling and lunching together.
Jealousy could become a problem in the workplace. If one of you is a flirt, once romantically involved, the other of you may have a more extreme negative emotional reaction to your flirting in the workplace than they did previously. Again, if the relationship is secret then there may be even more tension between coworkers who mistakenly think one, or the both of you, is "on the market," when you really aren't.
PDAs, Politics & Productivity: The Effect of Romance on Morale
Also, what will you do if people are offended by public displays of affection or they are prohibited in the workplace? How will it feel to honor a hands off policy? Will you be happy in that situation? Will you and your significant other easily be able to maintain distance in the workplace and intimacy in private? Work productivity may be at risk as well. Work morale could fall significantly if peers and friends at work feel ignored or sense dishonesty of some kind (when an office romance isn't disclosed). Another huge consideration, if office relationships are completely disallowed at work, is what will you do if you get married? Who goes to look for a new job?
Things could get political, work situations often do even without the added complications of office relationships. What if a coworker discovers your secret relationship? They may try to manipulate you. You may merely feel uncomfortable being caught in a forbidden romance. However it is possible that a coworker might try to suggest that your office relationship is interfering with professional performance. You can expect that, even if not against company policy, some professional peers will be against your office romance.
Keep in mind that the previous questions are primarily based on a healthy workplace relationship, hidden or public, that works out and is relatively permanent. But what do you do if a relationship with a coworker is permanent and ends… perhaps badly?
Til a Breakup Do Us Part
Are you prepared to handle the pain or awkwardness of seeing that person every day at work? Are you really willing to allow a situation that could lead to emotional vulnerability in the workplace? This can leave you and others at risk for low productivity and low work morale. Some relationships end amicably but plenty of them end with pain. People going through a break up, forced to work together or near each other, may be in no shape to be efficient happy workers. Can you keep it professional and avoid brining conflict to the office?
Forbidden Fruit: Secret Love in the Workplace
What will you do if the relationship was not only secret but forbidden? If you are dating a coworker who is married, or involved with someone else, and professional peers discover or know about the relationship, things could get sticky. What if both parties are married or committed to other individuals? Romeo and Juliet at the office are taking significant professional risks by placing their careers and the career of their colleagues and/or professional peers in potential jeopardy.
Romance at the office can cause legal trouble as well, for you and your company. If it was a fling between you and say someone above you or below you on the business hierarchy one or both of you is at risk for sexual harassment suits or other negative claims. Coworkers may gossip more in this situation and/or make unfounded judgments about career success by inappropriately attributing professional success to relationship status or connections.
Reputation is Hard Won & Easily Lost
The good opinion of others is invaluable. Reputation is slowly gained and easily lost. Naturally reputations can become easily tarnished in office romance situations. You must be prepared to take all of this into account as well. Ask yourself what you are willing to risk for love? Is the person you're interested in someone you hope to date long term or are they a possible one night stand? This distinction matters. Some say love is worth any risk. Clearly, a casual relationship or one night stand is not worth risking your job or your professional credibility and reputation.
It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation,
and only one bad one to lose it.
Again consider the romance and its long term potential before entering into it. Dating at work is no simple matter. Consider your situation, keep a clear mind, make your decision and then stick to it. Ask yourself all the tiny and big questions, and consider everything about the relationship. Everything matters in this case, and once you have decided you will know that at least you've made an informed decision. So consider all possible scenarios, organize your thoughts, and then decide if pursuing that one and only in the workplace is right for you. Do what you need to do to avoid your own tragedy in love.
About Gail Kasper:
Mid-1998, Gail Kasper started her business from a small one-bedroom apartment, with no money and no clients. Today, Gail is the host of the late-night television show Raw Reality, one of the nation's leading speakers, author, Top 1% Club Mentor, advice columnist, Certified Fitness Trainer, Ms. Continental America 2008, and the creator of SAD-T™ (Systematic Attitude Development- Technique™). A former Contributing Editor to Success Magazine with the "Ask Gail" column and host of the "Ask Gail" segment on the Comcast morning show, Gail is the author of her self-help autobiography Another Day Without A Cage: My Breakthrough From Self-Imprisonment To Total Empowerment and the self-help parable Unstoppable: 6 Easy Steps To Achieve Your Goals. With national media appearances that include Inside Edition, The Today Show, FOX Business News, and Oprah and Friends, Gail has earned the ranking of an in-demand national media personality who has been the topic of discussion on Regis and Kelly. Also, the current host of the Philadelphia Visitors Channel, she has also made numerous appearances on network affiliates that include ABC, FOX, CW11, Comcast, and CBS, where she co-hosted the Emmy award- winning America's TVJobNetwork. www.gailkasper.com
This article is courtesy of the Top 1% Club and the Top 1% Club Mentor Gail Kasper. For additional information on Gail Kasper, her television appearances and speaking engagements, please visit gailkasper.com.