By Charyn Pfeuffer
That "will they or won't they" tension can be palpable in the workplace. Although Jim Halpert and Pam Beesley of the hit series, The Office have done their best to bring the co-worker-with-benefits scenario to the mainstream, many companies (and fellow workers) still frown upon interoffice romances.
That doesn't mean co-workers aren't swapping spit in the supply closet when you aren't paying attention. According to career website Vault.com, in its 2011 Office Romance Survey, more than half of respondents fessed up to having a fling with a colleague.
Not all office mating signs are so obvious, but sometimes even the stealthiest of hook-ups slip-up. Here are five tell-tale signs that your co-worker may be making a move on the hottie down the hall.
Sign No. 1: Hyper-Attention
Kayt Sukel, author of Dirty Minds: How Our Brains Influence Love, Sex, and Relationships (Free Press, 2012) says that people who are romantically involved get a little obsessed with their intended, especially initially. "Just the sound of that special someone's name can change their focus and behavior, to the point where you can see physical changes in the brain," says Sukel. "If your cubicle mate suddenly has to join in every conversation mentioning that one cute guy, seems very aware of where he is, what he says and what he's doing, and makes a point of bringing him up whenever she can, there's a good chance there is a romance on the horizon."
Sign No. 2: Hanging Out
Sophia Lam, 30, crossed paths with her now-husband, Roger when they both worked as customer service representatives at eBay in Burnaby, British Columbia. Initially, they didn't feel any attraction until they started to hang out in the same circle of co-workers about a year and a half later. "We (the group) would go to the same birthday parties, work functions, and dinners," says Lam. "Our co-workers told us we would make a great couple, but we didn't think anything of it until he drove me home one day." The couple decided to come clean with their closest colleagues, who initially made some jokes. But they weren't lovey-dovey in the workplace, so co-workers respected their space and professionalism.
Sign No. 3: Touching
Relationship expert and author, Roland Hines, age 45, has been on both side of the co-worker dating fence as an employer and employee. As an employer, the Angeleno included a non-fraternization clause in his new hire paperwork, but remembers the tell-tale signs of attraction well. "Employees would frequently schedule lunch time or breaks together, but the biggest giveaway was flirtatious touching," says Hines. "A woman would place her hand on a man's chest or he would grasp her hand with familiarity -- they tried to make it appear as if there was no connection, but clearly there was."
Sign No. 4: Digital Evidence
Between email, Facebook, texting and Twitter, technology can make flirting in the workplace oh so convenient, but it can also be a fast track for disaster. Stephanie Losee and Healine Olen, authors of Office Mate: Your Employee Handbook for Romance on the Job, say that sending sexy texts from your company issued mobile or computer is an easy way to leave a traceable trail of your tryst. Nosy or not, it's not impossible for your cubicle mate to sneak a peek of a love note if you accidentally leave it on your computer screen.
Sign No. 5: Timing Is Everything
Morgan Phillips is a manager at Oddfellow's Cafe in Seattle. With more than two decades of experience in the restaurant industry, he's seen his fair share of workplace sparks fly. "You can tell when workers are dating by their timing – they stop talking when people are around, never can be found at the same place at the same time, and show up at work two minutes apart," says Phillips. "In the food and beverage industry, the end of work often marks the beginning of play without a change of venue. Couple that with a few post-shift cocktails and things happen."
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