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.
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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