You work beside some people for 8 hours or more per day.
For some people, that's more time than they spend with their family - or even their significant other...
It's pretty much impossible NOT to feel something...
Especially if you're just dating someone.
So with over 2000 working hours in a year, and if you measure the average date at about 4 hours - you got yourself 500 dates worth of time spent with them.
OF COURSE you're going to fall for a co-worker eventually. Or at least form a tiny bit of a crush on them.
But is it okay?
Is it acceptable to even date someone you met at work?
Look - you might not know the dirty scandalous truth about me, but I'll tell you a little story that will set your mind at ease:
A few years back, in 2007 to be exact, I was a martial arts instructor for a very popular school in the Foster City, CA, area.
I came in one afternoon to overhear a conversation between the Chief Instructor and one of the parents I'd seen at the school. She was starting classes herself and wanted to choose me as her teacher.
Well, of course, I was flattered.
And within several classes, we were dating.
Now, she wasn't a coworker, but she was pretty darn close to that level of professional boundary that I had to give it some serious thought.
And eventually, the heart won over the head.
The rest is history... Jen won my heart and we're now married with two fantastic kids. (Ever notice how no one ever says "yeah, we're married with two really annoying kids"? Just a funny notion...)
I look back on that and think that it was worth it. But there were plenty of times I dated coworkers where the relationship DIDN'T work out.
I'll talk more about how those were handled in a bit, but the point is that ALL of your relationships except the guy you marry or stay with forever will "not work out."
That doesn't make those relationships "failures" just because they ended. They were all opportunities to grow and mature into the relationship that does work.
Hey, that's the way the love game is played.
When you're thrown into a close working relationship with someone, it's a bit like having a really intense, personal kind of date with someone. Especially if they bring their emotions to the job.
In an office relationship, you can relate to the struggles someone faces all through the day.
"Yup, looks like we're in for another crap day at work..." (wink-wink... nudge-nudge...)
That's not easy to do with a spouse or partner who works in a different company or field.
Or doesn't work with you at all.
So with that, let's review a few of the things to know BEFORE you step into the messy situation of dating a co-worker...
HEADS UP! Coworker Dating Tip 1: NEVER date your supervisor or subordinate
This is just BAD bad bad. To the tenth degree.
If it's a romance you want to pursue, you need to arrange to either leave that organization or get transferred to a different department.
The reasons are pretty self-evident. There's a power in this kind of arrangement that makes it very dangerous for both involved.
Is this really what you want...?
It's a kind of power structure that can warp the emotional foundation of a healthy relationship.
And possibly put your career and job in jeopardy...
People will see the bias there, even if there is no favoritism going on.
WATCH OUT! Coworker Dating Tip 2: Know Your Company's Policy
Some companies strictly forbid relationships between coworkers. Some only have a policy against dating someone in the organization that is a direct supervisor or subordinate.
Some companies don't hire married couples...
Some companies just don't care at all, as long as it doesn't interfere with getting the job done.
They just trust you to be an adult and not let your emotional situation interfere with the work.
The less drama, the better...
You might also have to consider leaving if it gets to the point of walking the aisle with this guy.
In a recent survey performed by Workplace Options, 57% said they'd opt to protect their career, but 43% said they would lean towards leaving their jobs if the romance got serious.
What would YOU do? You have to think this through BEFORE you dip your pen in the company ink.
And even more importantly -
RED ALERT! Coworker Dating Tip 3: What if it doesn't work out?
What will you do if you break up?
There are two critical questions you MUST know before you jump in with both feet:
1) How will YOU handle it?
2) How will HE handle it?
You have to know this going in because the odds are that it won't work out.
That's the same for ANY relationship, really. It's not pessimism, it's REALITY.
If you've been around for any period of time, you'll see that most relationships don't succeed. They don't necessarily "fail" either.
This is not a cause to fall into despair, but a reason to wake up and take a conscious role in your relationship efforts. It's tempting to fall into the "destiny" and "soulmate" mindset - where every relationship is a spiritual "what if."
But the fact is that we have a huge INTENTIONAL role in our love decisions.
So think it through and be pragmatic about this, because it's not like other romances that can be left to the winds of fate.
If he's a jerk, he could trash your reputation...
If YOU are a jerk, you could face social and professional problems...
You want to be sure he's really who you think he is before you flip the coin and take the risk.
Always tread lightly at first...
If the two of you are awkward or edgy around each other while working on a common project, your work performance may suffer. And that could hurt your prospects for promotions or raises in the future.
You might even want to talk to someone you know who has had an office romance and ask them what they found most challenging - and if they'd do it again.
As you can see, there are a lot of considerations to go through to make this decision...
Now, before I come across as a real downer on relationships in the workplace, I have to tell you that I've had more than my fair share.
I've dated no less than 6 women in the various companies that I've worked in over the years.
Yeah, that's a lot, and it's afforded me a lot of perspective. I'd do it again, mostly because I know that I can compensate for many of the issues that do arise.
Just roll with the blows and learn from it...
But I'd also have to tell you that I'd seriously think twice given the chance that sexual harassment can come up as an issue if that person were to flip out.
And no one knows for sure if they'll flip out or not. You really can't predict a person's response. A good friend of mine had his girlfriend file a lawsuit for past utility bills because she felt the need for some revenge.
Let me leave you with a couple rules to follow so if you do decide to date a coworker, you'll know how best to keep your boundaries:
Date your Coworker - RULE 1) When at work - work is first.
Oh, yeah, flirting is FUN. It's downright electric when you're on the job because you're toying with a secret crush, and the energy is thrilling.
I think that's part of the reason that so many people jump into workplace romances is the taboo of them. It's almost - but not quite - forbidden.
No one has to know - not yet at least...
You want to avoid any weirdness, so keep the eye-batting and kissy-kissy faces to a minimum. Be professional...
Keep the playing to a minimum and make sure your first focus is the job at hand.
Date your Coworker - RULE 2) Keep it private - at first.
Don't broadcast your romantic entanglement until later, even if it is okay with management that you have a fling.
But you should tell the people who should knowup the food chain as soon as it looks serious. This will offset a lot of the possible damage that could happen if it came out later.
You'll also benefit from their advice about how best to handle it and who to watch out for.
It's always better to go this direction than the other way, where you expose yourself to the critical eye.
If you thought the paparazzi were bad...
And the gossip will be your worst enemy. Your co-workers won't all be happy about your good fortune.
Keep it hush-hush....
Date your Coworker - RULE 3) Keep the communication open...
This is just a good strategy for all relationships, but make it more of a focus with a workplace romance. You should always be talking about what's going on with whom as it relates to you and him.
If there's any weirdness, get it out in the openfast.
There's already a level of covert secrecy in your relationship, so you have to compensate in the other direction to make sure you don't get caught up in misunderstandings.
Well, if I haven't talked you out of it yet, you might gather there's a lot more to think about when it comes to dating a guy you work with.
Make sure you've got all the angles covered...
You should consider all the emotional ramifications, of course. But there's also the professional consequences.
I know some people who use workplace connections the way some people use blind dates, online dating, or singles events to meet people. It's their comfortable method, and I wish them well.
There's a huge potential to meet someone of the same mindset and socio-economic status as you.
Which is one of the most important elements of compatibility that matters between two people, by the way.
But there is another deeper level of connection that a LOT of couples fail to make, coworkers or not.
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