You found someone who makes you laugh and you enjoy spending time with, a potential new love interest? Great, finally someone who makes you happy! The only issue is that it's your co-worker. It's not surprising to find someone at work and many do because we spend so much of our lives in the office. The question is: to pursue or not to pursue? If you're already in a relationship with a co-worker, this is an even harder decision.
Sometimes office romances work out and end in happily ever after, but often it is a true recipe for disaster. It is important if you are in or considering a relationship with a colleague to take the following factors into account and proceed cautiously.
Office politics. You cannot let an office fling get in the way of your professional reputation at work. Could this romance limit your career progression? If so, a love affair is probably not worth it. You are risking the balance of your work environment, which extends well beyond a circle of two. You could also miss out on a potential promotion. If things get serious with your love interest and you face professional obstacles because of it, one of you may need to consider a job change after a time.
Hierarchy. While many companies have adopted more progressive relationship policies, for the most part, you're discouraged from dating within your chain of command. There is a good reason for this, as it can turn offices ugly should personal issues interfere with work. You may want to consider getting external human resources advice about how to handle a situation where your partner is either your superior or direct report. Asking internally could cause gossip and pose a risk.
Proximity. You should also take into account the proximity of your workspace and job function to your partner. If you are in the same office or role, tread carefully. Working together each day may be difficult because you will have to act as if nothing is going on between you two. No matter how sly you think you are, people will figure it out in time and some jealous co-workers could emerge.
Keep it under wraps. Don't linger by each other's desks or take long lunches away from the office. The less your colleagues know, the better. It's generally a good idea to wait six months or more to tell anyone in your office that you're seeing a co-worker. At the six-month mark, if you've had serious relationship discussions with one another and feel this is a long-term thing, it's probably time to talk to your managers and HR.
Letting the cat out of the bag. When you're ready to tell people, make sure that you and your significant other are in agreement about doing so. If it's a go, talk with your managers and HR representatives first before letting your peers in on the secret. Be prepared that you may not get all positive reactions, and you may need to deal with regulatory consequences. For example, depending on the situation, they may tell you a job change is in order. In addition, even if everyone acts happy for you and is excited to hear the news, you can't expect to act like a romantic couple in the office because it will cause awkwardness.
If you're at the beginning stages where there's been some flirting and you're considering entering into a relationship with someone, you may want to wait. Are you planning to leave your job soon anyway? If so, hold out on initiating this new adventure until you are safely away from your old company.
If you're already in a relationship, chances are people know about it even if you've been diligent about keeping it quiet. However, it's still important to keep your actions professional and draw the line between your personal and work life. By consulting outside HR experts and waiting to determine the seriousness of the relationship before telling people at work, you'll be able to manage the separation between your personal and professional lives more effectively.
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