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Office Politics

Dangerous Workplace Romances

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Most people spend at least 40% of their waking hours at work, so it's no wonder that many romantic relationships begin at the office. Not only do coworkers spend a great deal of time together, but they also share goals, frustrations, disappointments, and many other experiences. Every workplace is a little world unto itself, so the inhabitants naturally develop close associations. If you're looking for love, work can be a great place to search. But there are some romantic entanglements you would be wise to avoid.

1.  Your Boss
What's the attraction? For some, power is an aphrodisiac. They are attracted to people who can make decisions, control resources, and tell others what to do. Others seek security and stability, so they like the fact that managers are "in charge". High-level managers also have large salaries and attractive perks that act as romantic bait. If you see yourself in this picture, try to imagine your boss without the position and title. Focus only on his or her personality, lifestyle, physical appeal, and interests, then see how attractive this person seems.

What's the problem? In fact, some people have married their bosses and gone on to lead happy and fulfilled lives. But more often manager/employee liaisons fizzle out, leaving uncomfortable office relationships in their wake. And since bosses have more power, the lower-level partner may suffer adverse consequences. If your manager tires of you as a love interest, he or she may also decide that life would be easier without you at work. So you could lose your job along with your love life. On the other hand, if you dump your boss . . . well, figuring out how to safely do that can be a bit of a challenge.

2.  Married People
What's the attraction? As you operate in your own little closed society at work, married colleagues may not seem very married. After all, you never see their family. So when chemistry starts to develop with a married coworker, it's easy to pretend that those pesky family ties really aren't too important. For some people, married folks may also seem "safe" – that is, they only require a limited amount of involvement, commitment, or time.

What's the problem? Pretty obvious. Married people may not seem married, but they are. Serious involvement with a married colleague means a future that is either very limited or very complicated. Some married folks enjoy having a romantic interest in one place and a family in another, although they would seldom admit this. Others may truly wish to leave their spouse, but never have the nerve to do so. In either case, a single partner can spend many years and lots of lonely holidays waiting for things to change. Even if you are only interested in a short-term fling, keep in mind that you and your married honey are not the only people involved here. You will be harming someone's family, including their kids.

3.  The Marriage Escape
What's the attraction? If you're married, and things aren't going well at home, certain work colleagues might start to look pretty good. After all, you don't have to do their laundry or take out their trash or share their bank account or deal with their mother. In fact, the two of you have no conflicts because you're not actually sharing a life. So a romantic interlude may offer a vacation from all the stresses and strains of marital togetherness. And if you're really miserable with your spouse, an attractive coworker might appear to be a promising alternative.

What's the problem? The problem is that marriage is a real relationship and a workplace affair is not. So you can't compare the two. For married people, a romance on the job is a trip to fantasyland. But it's also a guarantee that you are not going to resolve the issues at home. You can't fix a marriage while you're preoccupied with a pleasurable diversion. And if your marriage is really on the rocks, an affair is simply a delaying tactic that puts off some difficult decisions.

4.  Rebound Relationships
What's the attraction? When you've ended a serious relationship, starting another one can seem like the best way to soothe your bruised ego or fill that empty place in your life. And work provides a smorgasbord of possible partners. If you have been unceremoniously dumped by your previous honey, the attentions of a colleague may help you feel attractive and special again.

What's the problem? If the desirable coworker is neither married nor your boss, there may not be a problem. But be careful. After ending a relationship, people are often too emotionally damaged to make wise romantic decisions. If you have a brief fling with someone you meet in a bar (which is not necessarily recommended), at least you don't have to see them again when it doesn't work out. But Mr. or Ms. Coworker will still be there, day after day, once the relationship is over. And if he or she didn't want it to end, you may have a persistent problem on your hands.

5.  The Office Casanova
What's the attraction? Some people are serial lovers. They aren't happy unless they make regular conquests. For them, the most rewarding part of a relationship is the thrill of the chase with victory at the end. So they become very good at chasing. These specialists at romance know how to flirt, flatter, charm, and entice, which makes them quite appealing. Especially to those who don't know their reputation.

What's the problem? People who enjoy the chase become quickly bored once the hunt is over. Then it's on to their next victim. If you get snared by one of these folks, you may feel pretty stupid after the inevitable rejection. But since you work together, you'll be reminded of this humiliating experience every single day.

6.  Travel Hook-ups & Party Encounters
What's the attraction? When people who work together have an opportunity to relax together, they enter the romantic danger zone. Especially if alcohol is involved. Close working relationships can quickly and easily become close personal relationships, since the people involved already know each other so well.

What's the problem? That colleague who looks pretty good after a couple of drinks or when you're five hundred miles away might not seem so appealing once you're back home and sober. But you may have created an expectation that the two of you now have a future together. Undoing this situation can cause hurt feelings and lasting resentments. Even if both parties feel they made a mistake, the relationship can become rather awkward for awhile.

A Final Word of Advice
Colleagues who have fallen in love (or lust) usually believe that no one else knows. But the signals are almost always painfully obvious to everyone around them. Workplace relationships are seldom a secret. So unless your potential romance can be conducted out in the open, you'd be wise to avoid it altogether.

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