There’s a good reason everyone everywhere always advises against office romances. (Well, at least it seems that way.) Office romance is fraught with tricky situations and potential pitfalls, and if you can avoid it, it’s probably best to just steer clear in the first place. But let’s say you’ve heard all the warnings, thought through the implications, faced the risks, and you’re still convinced it’s the best thing to do. Here are some tips to help minimize the risk of a horribly messy meltdown in your relationship and your workplace.
Follow Workplace Policy
If you’re sure you want to enter a romantic relationship with a coworker, check with your HR department to see what company policy dictates in such situations. I know, it seems intrusive and bureaucratic, but if you’re willing to follow the rules on this one it will make things go much smoother in the long run. Many workplaces require official disclosure to the company of consensual romantic or sexual relationships between employees. This helps shield both you and the company from liability for sexual harassment and similar charges if things go badly and one of the partners is feeling vengeful. Trying to slide under the radar on this not only leaves you open to the possibility of liability and similar issues, but you also open yourself up to a significant measure of trouble just for disobeying company policy.
Know the Risks
Make sure as you enter the relationship that both of you have the same expectations. If one person is looking for a quick fling and the other for committed companionship, it’s obviously a bad idea to enter any relationship. In an office romance, however, the potential fallout from a bad breakup is far worse. It will be impossible to ignore each other or find space to heal if you see each other at the office every day.
If co-workers know both of you, then you’ll basically be forcing everyone in the office (or department, or whatever) into an awkward position where they’ll have to pick sides or navigate a very tense situation with both of you. Furthermore, there’s a good chance you’ll both be the subject of a good deal of office gossip whether you break up or not, and that can add a great deal of pressure to an office romance that a regular romantic relationship simply doesn’t have to deal with in the same way.
Use a Light Touch
To sum up, know that an office romance is an office romance. Make sure to communicate very openly about what you’re expecting, enjoying, and worrying about. Keep your expectations relatively light for the first few months. If you decide to have some fun together, see where it goes, and are willing to let it go if it doesn’t work out, the aftermath will be a lot more healthy and bearable. Don’t hold onto a totally pessimistic mindset, but do be aware of the realities. With sufficient communication, clear thinking, and caution, an office romance can be fun and fulfilling, but be sure you have an intentional, well-conceived approach to it.