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Some long-ago sage wisely coined the phrase “don’t get your honey where you get your money”. The best approach to office romance is probably to avoid it altogether. Most workplace love affairs leave a trail of resentments, hurt feelings, and shattered working relationships in their wake. But if you believe that you have found the one true love of your life in the neighboring cubicle, that advice isn’t likely to keep you apart. So here are some suggestions for managing the situation and minimizing potential damage to your career.
1. Don’t assume that you have a cloak of invisibility.
For some weird reason, people in love or in lust believe that no one will notice their intense attraction to each other. This is never true.
2. Resist the urge to talk.
You may have an uncontrollable desire to announce that you have found your perfect soul mate or that you’re dating the office hottie. But control the urge to babble on about your love life. This will just fuel the office grapevine and bore your coworkers.
3. Know that everyone probably knows anyway.
Even if you manage to keep your mouth shut, people will find out somehow. Coworkers seem to be telepathic about these things. So assume that your romance is public knowledge.
4. Don’t let your boss hear it through the grapevine.
While you don’t want to advertise your new love interest, neither do you want your boss to be surprised by the news. If your significant other is also a close coworker, your manager needs to know. Give a brief heads-up and explain how you will keep the relationship from interfering with work.
5. But if you are the boss . . .
In the world of office relationships, dating an employee is the Big Blunder. It’s impossible to objectively supervise the person with whom you’re sleeping. Coworker romances often create discomfort in an office, but manager-employee hook-ups can wreck the place. And if you think it’s a secret, see points 1 & 3 above.
6. Check the policy.
If your organization has an official policy on office relationships, you’d better find out what it is. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a lover, but without a job. Most employers don’t officially prohibit coworker dating. But most do prohibit supervisor-employee liaisons. With good reason.
7. Keep it professional at work.
At the office, your goal is to conduct yourself so that no outside observer would have any clue that you and you honey are anything but polite, friendly colleagues. Think of it as a test of your acting abilities.
8. And keep your hands to yourself.
No kissing, snuggling, handholding, shoulder massages, or back rubs while at work. In fact, no touching whatsoever.
9. Don’t seek out joint projects or travel opportunities.
If you normally share work assignments, that’s fine, as long as you behave like “regular” coworkers. But you must never manipulate projects or tasks in order to maximize your time together. And you should absolutely never manufacture travel opportunities. That could constitute misuse of company funds.