A generation ago, working full-time was defined as being at the off
Monday through Friday, 9-5. Then, some years back, the professional’s
hours became 9-6 (and beyond). These days, technology makes people
accessible nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All of this
working doesn’t leave much time for relaxing – never mind dating!
Yet love remains at the top of most people’s agendas. So how is the single professional supposed to find it? The answer is simple (and increasingly common). It’s true that more and more people are finding love on the job. While inter-office dating is still not completely acceptable in some circles (not to mention how complex is can be when sexual harassment laws are looked at) studies reveal that work is one of the most common places couples meet. In fact, four in ten of us admit to having been romantically linked to a co-worker.
People who work together tend to have things in common – even if it’s only where they spend the bulk of their time. Add to this an increasingly casual workplace, where co-workers often become friends, and it’s easy to understand how something more can develop. It’s not always easy – or considered acceptable (especially if your romantic interest is a boss or subordinate) – to pair up at work. So if you’re one of the hard-working unattached millions and you are considering a workplace relationship, think it through!
Before you ask
Get to know your potential paramour well before you ask them out. Because you work together, there are far more consequences to a “bad night” than in other situations. Make sure you have enough of a rapport to “talk about it later,” should things not go well. Know what you’re getting into – as much as you can. If you take things more slowly, there is less of a chance that the situation will end badly. If you ask someone out at work and they say “no,” don’t ask them again. Pursuing it could spell trouble for you with the Human Resources department.
Know your business
One of the first things you should think about before you consider proceeding on a crush or some chemistry is your company’s policy on dating within the office. If it’s forbidden, you have to be willing to leave the organization if a romance pans out. If it’s not, you have to consider the corporate climate.
If your company doesn’t have a policy, don’t think it’s a get-out-of-jail-free card. You may still have to deal with some sideways stares, which is nothing compared to the awkwardness you’ll face should the relationship fall apart. In short, weigh things wisely – particularly if you’re breaking the rules. If you simply want to make out with that adorable person in marketing but you don’t see much relationship potential, you probably don’t want to go there (unless you like being the focus of gossip). On the other hand, if all that time with the cutie from credit has led to a serious connection, the risk may be worth it.
If you do decide to date a co-worker, set up some rules from the get-go. First and foremost, agree that no matter what happens, you will maintain a “civilized” working relationship. This means that whether you go on one date and don’t hit it off, or wind up seriously involved a few months later and in the middle of a spat, you will avoid awkwardness at work. Of course you’ll have to revisit this issue depending on what happens along the way – breakups, arguments, whatever. But it’s important to address the possible complications upfront – whether it’s for one night, or the rest of your life!
The number one rule in office romance is don’t mistake excitement for relationship chemistry. Let’s face it – any activity that feels clandestine (secret kisses in the car, lunch dates passed off as meetings, longing stares across the corridor) is going to provide a certain thrill factor. Even if you haven’t acted on your feelings, the tension alone can sometimes be enough to significantly increase the sparks. This feeling of chemistry can be real – or simply linked to the inherent naughtiness in something that has to be kept a secret. In many cases, it’s a little bit of both. Just remember that real attraction and forbidden behavior can combine to create a powerful elixir – and it’s a short-term drug.
Sure PDAs are tempting… the after-hours quickie in the conference room, or the stairwell session under the guise of a Starbucks run. But trust us – you’ll live to regret them! Whether it’s the maintenance man, the CEO or worse (a surveillance camera that catches you in the act!), someone is bound to see you sooner or later. No matter how good the action, it won’t be worth the rumors, the embarrassment and the consequences to your career! Be smart. Ask yourself, would it feel as thrilling if the entire office knew the details or could see me? Never mind what it will feel like if it turns into a sexual harassment case – and it can!
If you do wind up involved with someone at work, don’t forget what you originally came to the office for – to do your job! It can be easy, particularly if you spend a lot of time with that person each day, to spend less time working – and more time chatting or flirting. But the simple truth is that an office romancer needs to do a great job at their actual job.
You decrease your odds of facing awkward situations by always doing your best at work, and remaining uninvolved in what your partner does – at least while you’re inside the office!
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