A burning question often on the minds of some professionals -- outside of when their company will start participating in Taco Tuesdays, or if they'll get to work at home more -- is whether or not to act on their desires to get to know a coworker ... a little better. We've all seen office romances play out on TV shows and in movies. Sometimes, they work; sometimes, they don't. Is it really worth it to mix business with pleasure?
That's a question only you can answer, my dear -- though, there's a pretty good chance HR might have something to say about it. (Yeah, non-fraternization policies can take the steam out of your affair.)
Regardless of what's kosher with company policy, at the end of the day, you're gonna do what you think is best.
Office relationships happen, and there's no getting around that -- but who says there aren't still rules to follow? Here to help those itching to date a coworker are a few relationship experts weighing in on the dos and don'ts of workplace love.
- Find out about company policy. Before you give the okay to meet up for drinks, it's important to learn what your job has to say about dating coworkers. As Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman, psychologist and author of Dating From the Inside Out, notes, your romance may or may not be in violation of company policy. "This may be less of an issue if you are in different departments, or on separate floors," says Dr. Sherman.
- Practice discretion. "Avoid public displays of affection," advises dating strategist Michelle Roberts. No matter how tempted you are to play "grab the booty" between meetings, don't do it.
- Determine if your potential love interest can keep quiet. "If he or she is the office gossip, your secret will be out in the open before you have the first cup of morning coffee together," alerts Philip Petree, author of The Man Puzzle.
- Make sure you have more in common than just work. Seriously, why waste your time -- and possibly risk your job -- for someone who just might be a dud? "Many work relationships start because the majority of your time is spent together in the office. Be intentional about getting to know the person outside of your job's building," recommends Sherica Matthews, author and relationship coach.
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- Treat your colleague the same as everyone else. "You may have a tendency to favor them in some way and soon others may begin to pick up on the fact that maybe there is something going on with the two of you," cautions Dr. Gary Brown, a licensed psychotherapist.
- Share career goals. Who says you two can't discuss your hopes and dreams? "Make sure your significant other is comfortable with your role at the company -- including future goals and desired positions. You don't want to feel like you have to apologize for your accomplishments, keep your wins to yourself, or let a successful career slowly creep into the bedroom," points out Sarah Patt, matchmaker for It's Just Lunch, an online dating service for busy professionals.
- Be prepared for an awkward breakup. "Nothing is worse than having to see your ex on a regular basis. Seeing someone you dated at work every day can be a huge distraction and make it hard to move on, so be prepared for what can happen," notes relationship expert Lori Bizzoco.
- Cozy up to people above or below you. Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and dating and relationship coach, strongly warns professionals from pursuing a subordinate or boss as a love interest. And, in many ways, it makes sense. Don't jeopardize your credibility.
- Forget to see if your love is single! "While that flirtatious but married coworker may seem very appealing, don't fall for those classic lines -- like, 'my spouse doesn't understand me,' 'the marriage has been over for years,' or, 'we're staying married for the sake of the children.' A person who cheats will eventually cheat on you. Save yourself a tremendous amount of heartbreak by steering clear of the married coworker," notes relationship counselor Nancy Pina.
- Try to resolve issues at work. Couples argue -- that's a given. But one thing you shouldn't do is bring that drama into the office, especially if you work together. "Settle it outside work. No one wants to hear it, even it if happens to provide some entertainment. Workplaces are definitely less tolerant of this kind of nonsense," says Kristy De Leon, licensed marriage and family therapist.
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- Come or leave work in one car. "Everyone notices a single car left in the parking lot," reminds Christine Baumgartner, dating and relationship coach.
- Have sex in or around the office. Save that nooky for the bedroom! "It may be exciting and incredibly tempting, but don't do it. Someone always sees or hears you," alerts Dr. Matthew Anderson, author of The Resurrection of Romance: How to Create and Sustain a World Class Romantic Relationship That Lasts a Lifetime
- Company correspondence is not private. "If you must talk to your in-office inamorata, use a cell phone in a private space, where you can't be overhead," recommends Tina B. Tessina (aka Dr. Romance), PhD, psychotherapist, and author of Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences.
- Deny it. Did you ever think what you would do should your company find out about your romance -- and it's a no-no? Dr. Nancy Irwin says fess up. "Admitting your office romance and taking responsibility shows integrity," notes Dr. Irwin.
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