4 Things You Need to Do Before Dating a Co-Worker

Mishandle workplace dating and you can jeopardize your career and in some cases your professional reputation. Photo: Lacey Seymour Photography

Mishandle workplace dating and you can jeopardize your career and in some cases your professional reputation. Photo: Lacey Seymour Photography

So, you’re attracted to someone at work. You can’t think of anything else. The pre-occupation is driving you crazy. Sparks are flying. Literally. It’s bad. Yeah, I get it. I’ve been there, done that. Yes, Your Office Mom had a workplace fling back in the day. It was, shall we say steamy. But, let’s move along.

Workplace dating is alive and well. According to the Vault's 2017 Office Romance Survey, 57% of respondents reported having some kind work romance ranging from a quick fling to an ongoing long-term relationship. 

Mishandle workplace dating, and you can jeopardize your career. Have a series of love interests, and your professional reputation can take a hit. And, yes, even today, more so if you're a woman. Romance the wrong person and you could get more than you bargained for living with the aftermath of a breakup. The bottom line, you don't want to go into workplace dating lightly. It’s not like hooking up with someone you just met at a bar, and you’re done. You’re never really done with a workplace romance unless you can both handle the breakup,  control your emotions and impulses, and watch the dating pattern start all over with someone new.  Or, you can quit if it gets too messy or uncomfortable.  Stop for a moment and let that one sink in. 

So, before you decide to let your harmless little flirtation go any further, Your Office Mom has a little advice. First, move away from the object of your desires so you can’t feel the electricity pop. Second, take off your rose colored glasses and consider the 4 tips listed below::

1.  Vet the object of your desires

Whereas you might just go for it in a social situation, with workplace dynamics being what they are, it’s important to understand what you’re getting into.  Maybe you’re working on a new project, and this guy from marketing is a doppelgänger for Zac Efron. Or you’ve got your eye on the new girl in IT. But what do you actually know about them? Before you put your career on the line, maybe you ought to vet the object of your desires. It’s all very casual and stealth, but it’s important to do. First, are they single? Second, are you? Find out who they are and what redeeming qualities they possess. Who are their work friends? How do they treat others? What’s their dating history at work? Is there a pattern? Do they take their job seriously or do they party too much?

According to the Vault survey, Men are more likely than women to have had an office romance (59% of men vs. 54% of women). Male romances are also more likely to have been random hookups (25% for men vs. 16% for women).

When you date someone at work, or even just hook-up and others find out,  your critical thinking skills and judgment come into question. Yes, you can do whatever the hell you want, but when it comes to work and your paycheck, be smart.  If you’re going for a hookup or have a relationship be confident that if anything goes south, you can hold your head up high and know you weren’t an idiot.

2.  Consider the consequences

All actions have consequences. A casual hookup can be disastrous when half of the 4th floor finds out you had hot sex between two parked cars on level 3 the night before. The grapevine is never kind, and it gets amped up when rumors of peers and sex are involved. Doubly so if alcohol is in the mix too.

There are often unintended consequences of workplace dating. Think about how dating someone outside of work often changes you, your friends, your interests, and your objectivity, or lack of it. That applies to work too. A work romance, especially one in which you are on the same team, or department, can be especially challenging. Consider how your new relationship might impact group dynamics during the work day and afterward, socially. Will it be for the better?  Review your unique situation and the possible consequences. Be real. Be honest. Ask yourself if it’s worth it before you add any potential disruption to your life at work. Remember, you spend more time with people there than you do with your friends and family.

3.  Be honest with yourself

Some people say the only place they can meet people is at work. Seriously? I don’t think so. It might take effort, but you likely have options. Regardless, figure out what you want. What are you looking for? What’s driving your attraction? Do you have a different outlet? Have you dated at work before?  Do you need or want emotional support? From the Vault survey, 30% of the respondents said they have a platonic office spouse (33% for millennials, 31% for Gen Xers, and 23% in Boomers/Over-50s). With my point being, be sure you understand what you need and want in a possible relationship.

4.  Be selective

Realize attraction is often fleeting. You know this to be true. It’s happened many times before. You get to know someone and decide you don’t like them at all. It’s important to remember that here. Get to know the person in group settings with limited alcohol. Have a friend who will haul your ass out at a certain time to prevent you from acting on any of your unbridled impulses. With workplace romance be selective and remember:
“The most common way for office romances to begin is working in the same department (36%) or in nearby offices/cubicles (28%). Next are happy hours/office parties (26%) and working on the same project (21%). So, it appears that ...what begins as attraction in the office due to proximity gets acted on at social events.”

Want More? Related Reading:

What are your experiences with workplace dating? Share your comments!