Thursday, January 20, 2011

Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Coworker

When you consider how much of our time is spent at work, it’s no wonder so many us end up dating our coworkers.  But is this a good idea?  Is the possibility of love worth the risk to one’s career? There are no simple solutions, as this is a very complicated issue, with lots of variables to consider, but the short answer is, “No, you should not date a coworker.”  And in case you’re wondering, the long answer is “Noooooooooo, you should not date a coworker!”

But just because you shouldn’t doesn’t mean you won’t, so here are a few rules to help those of you who just can’t help yourselves. 

Rule One: Don’t get involved with anyone above you.  Dating a supervisor or someone with a better position than you is just asking for trouble. You may think you can handle the pressure, but sooner or later, something is going to give. This also means you can not date any one below you, since they would then be breaking Rule One.

Rule Two: Remember where you are. I learned this the hard way when, as a 16-year old bagger in a grocery store, my boss sent me home after observing several hours of me flirting with the cute cashier in the “8 Items or Less” lane rather than helping any of the poor old elderly Ethels working the main lines. “This is a supermarket, not a meat market,” he said, and sent me packing. So, just like the separation between Church and State, you must maintain a separation between Work and Date.

Rule Three: Say it when you’re sober.  If you suddenly notice how attractive a coworker is during an office party or happy hour, you might want to avoid acting on this affection until you can ensure that these feelings are the result of a shot from Cupid’s arrow, and not from Jose Cuervo.  Otherwise, you may end up breaking Rule Four.

Rule Four: No “hooking up.” Too much of this causes “Snow White Syndrome” a sometimes fatal (to your career and reputation) condition associated with lines of workers marching by your cubicle whistling while they work (but what they’re really saying is “Hi ho. Hi ho. Hi ho, hi ho, hi ho!”)

Rule Five: No public displays of affection. Your relationship may be getting serious, but if you want to be taken seriously, you need to act like a professional, and professionals don’t go around making kissy faces and calling each other “Schmoopy”  So keep your hands, comments, and pet names to yourself.  And this pertains to all PDA’s, not just the “get a room” variety, for no matter how sly or subtle you think you are, people will notice. Which leads to Rule Six…

Rule Six: Don’t alienate others.  Your little world of two may seem like enough right now, but since 50% of all marriages end in divorce, the chances that your little office romance will work out are pretty slim, so you want to maintain good relations with the rest of your coworkers.  You also want to avoid being too critical of your fellow employees during “private” conversations with your partner.  Such comments may come back to haunt you if the two of you break up and your ex decides to let your coworkers know what you really think about them.

Rule Seven: Let them fight their own battles. While we all want to protect and stick up for our partners, while at work you need to back off and let them work it out.  He or she will resent your “help.”  Save your sympathy and consolation for when you get home, otherwise you’ll risk both your and your partner’s credibility. 

Rule Eight: If things are going good, transfer.  What at first seems fun and exciting will quickly turn dull and confining.  So if you want to keep the relationship going, one of you will have to go.  This doesn’t mean you have to give up your career, simply consider a lateral move or a similar position at a different location. This will give you the space you need, and something to talk about when you come home from work.

And that’s about it.   Follow these rules, and with a little work (and a lot of luck) you might be able to make your work relationship work.  But if not, don’t say I didn’t warn you.  And remember, there’s a thin line between flirting and harassment and it’s called the Unemployment Line.

This message brought to you by a man who met the woman who would become his wife at work - but he was never one to follow rules...even his own! Member FDIC


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