Office Romances: How To Have One Without Killing Your Career

office romances rules

First the CIA chief resigned because of an affair; almost simultaneously, the president of Lockheed Martin was ousted due to an "inappropriate" relationship with a subordinate. Put aside the fact that both men are married and leaders of their organizations, which makes affairs more toxic. The question arises: Are office romances destined to ruin careers? What if you're single and think a colleague could be the love of your life? Is it always career suicide to have an office romance?

The answer is an unequivocal no. In fact, many people meet their soulmates at work and go on to have fulfilling relationships -- and careers. You can manage both -- if you observe these rules:

1. Be aware of company policy.
Many companies have no policies regarding office relationships. But some companies have strict no-fraternization policies, banning romances with colleagues. Others prohibit dating subordinates. And it can be a fireable offense to violate the policy. In that case, if you feel you've found your significant other, you may want to consider a transfer or having a conversation with your boss.

2. Say what you mean, mean what you say.
Are you genuinely interested in the co-worker -- or just flirting? I recommend against office "flirtationships" because they can lead to all kinds of misunderstandings. The other person may not know you're flirting or "kidding around."

3. Make sure it is mutual.
If you're not getting clear signals that the other person is interested, stop. The line can easily cross into sexual harassment if it isn't mutual.

4. Don't flaunt the relationship.
You're dating and couldn't be happier? Keep it to yourself. You don't have to ignore each other at work, but you should not do anything that would make other people uncomfortable. You want to maintain your reputation in the office as a professional. No kissing or holding hands at work.

More: Office Romances On The Rise -- Again

5. Don't be a serial dater at work.
You'll inevitably cause hurt feelings and gossip. Reputations stick. If you're dating everyone in the office, that's how you'll become known. This goes for men and women.

6. Interns shouldn't date.
You don't want the impression of you to be that you started dating another intern a month after you started. Just wait until the semester is over; if you're both sincerely interested in each other, three months won't make a difference.

7. Stay clear of married co-workers.
This is simple. If you know the person who sits next to you at work is married or in a relationship, respect that. Don't put yourself or that person in a compromising situation. It will only lead to chaos.

8. Expect to be the subject of gossip.
No matter how discreet you are, people will find out about the relationship. And they will gossip. If you're dating a manager, and you're an entry-level worker, people are going to question your motives. Is she just trying to "get ahead"? If you're boss, people will likewise wonder whether you're "taking advantage" or being "duped." If you can't handle the gossip, don't date a colleague.

9. Be prepared for the breakup.
What will you do if the relationship ends? You need to think that through before you dive into the relationship. Can you handle seeing that person every day at work? Make sure you are 100 percent OK with that, before starting an office relationship.

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My husband and I met over the phone, at work, 16 years ago. We started dating after a few months; I was just coming out of a marriage and had a 2 year old son. For a long time, we would go out of our way not to be seen together outside of the office. We worked at a trucking company and sometimes I had to dispatch him, but I tried very hard to make sure that he wasn't shown any favortism. At one point, he even changed to a different region so I wouldn't be involved in his everyday planning. When he left for another job, about 2 years later, we finally told my boss. He said that we must have done a very good job hiding the relationship, because he knew nothing about it and not heard any rumors. Well, here we are, married for 11 years, and we have added three more children to the one that my husband calls "his wedding gift from God". It is possible to have an office romance..just don't get sloppy about it!

November 19 2012 at 5:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just ask Bill Clinton.

November 19 2012 at 4:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

make sure it is mutual-yeah , until one party changes their mind. Then the poop will hit the fan.

November 19 2012 at 4:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My husband and I met at work over 48 years ago, our life together was wonderful until he passed 6 years ago. If I had to do it all over again, I would. I can't think of a better place to meet your spouse.

November 19 2012 at 4:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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