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Dating a Coworker: Can It Work for You?

Anna Hennings

August 24, 2009

Handling the Inevitable

Whether we know better and want to do it anyway, can’t deny the palpable attraction, or both, office relationships happen. There’s no denying that. So if you have an eye on someone, are already involved, or are debating ending an affair with a coworker that just isn’t working for you, here are a few things to remember when dealing with the good, the bad, and the ugly.

1. Your Boss is Off-Limits

Don’t date your boss. Don’t date your boss’s boss. Or even their boss. Just don’t! You’ll end up in a terribly sticky situation, a mess that could do more harm than good to both your career and your heart.

2. Talk About It

When you two have realized things could become (or already are!) serious, be open with each other about the range of what-ifs. I know this isn’t an easy conversation (especially when you’re floating on air in the honeymoon stage), but trust me — it’s one you need to have. What will you do if you break up? What will you do if someone finds out when they’re not supposed to know, or before you are really ready to share? What will you do if your company’s policy forbids inter-office relationships?

As a friend’s colleague Eileen shares, “One of the first points of conversation we had was what if we broke up. How would we handle our professionalism, etc. We wanted to make sure that we remained professional and cordial.”

Being on the same page about how you’ll handle certain key situations — even if they don’t actually occur — will, in the meantime, help you and the relationship feel more safe, stable, and secure. And, more importantly, you will already have an escape plan in place should the storm of questions hit unexpectedly.

3. The Perfect Balance

Keeping your personal life out of the office is hard enough (if not impossible), especially if you’re good friends with your colleagues. When you’re dating one of them? It’s even harder! That’s why it’s crucial to set clear expectations with your significant other about your behavior at work versus your behavior at home.

My colleague Beatrix, who is still in a solid and healthy relationship with a great man she met at her previous job, admits that, a few months after becoming official…

He broke up with me! He claimed I was mean and bitchy to him at work. He said that if he wasn’t talking to me the entire time at work and saying everything perfectly that I would get mad, and it made him not want to go into work anymore.

What these two needed to clear up, but hadn’t even mentioned yet, was how they were going to balance their personal relationship in a professional environment, especially since they worked so closely together every single day. “I thought he was flirting with the girl sitting next him, and it hurt my feelings,” Beatrix further divulged. “Then I realized I was just being insecure.”

Two weeks later, after some frank discussions, they were back together.

So, what does this mean to you?

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