Work is where we spend our days, explore ourselves, and build our networks—so why should dating be excluded? That said, deciding whether or not to date the hunk 10 cubes down and two rows over from you is extremely personal. And while there are no right answers, there may be a company policy.
Legislation doesn’t regulate matters of the heart, but you definitely want to understand the potential implications of going out with an officemate. First find out how your organization views at-work relationships, and start your decision-making process from there. If you think you want to give it a try and ask him out, use the following strategy to help you sort through both the emotions and the day-to-day realities of dating at work.
1. Know your intentions. No shame here, but the parameters of the relationship and the level of risk are directly proportional to your purpose. Are you having a one-night-stand with the company CEO to leverage a promotion? (High risk.) Are you wildly infatuated with the boss you barely know? (Medium risk.) Or have you developed a mutually supportive relationship with a coworker you’ve come to trust and respect? (Low risk.)
2. ‘Fess up. If you think you can hide your affair from your coworkers, think again. I’ve worked with more than a few “undeclared” couples who thought they had the office duped. Note: Do not leave for vacation at exactly the same time, both return with a tan, and outright refuse to know anything about each other’s whereabouts. Attempts to keep the relationship a secret usually fail and invite interest, speculation, and gossip.
3. Tell your boss first. This might sound a little goodie-two-shoes, but my suggestion is to share your relationship with your head honcho. Not in an “I’d like your permission” or parental kind of way but rather in a “We’ve thought about this relationship responsibly and care about your business and our careers” style. Inevitably your boss will find out anyway, and you want her to be confident that you'll behave in a professional, ethical, and responsible manner. She can even be an ally to help you create personal and professional boundaries.
4. Nix the public displays of affection (PDAs). Blatant and indiscreet PDA is difficult to stomach whether you’re walking down the street, at a bar, or attending a ball game, and it certainly doesn't belong at work. No one wants to watch you suck face in the office corridor.
5. Think before you share. If you’ve decided to go for it, your days of coming in to work to gossip about last night’s tantric sex session or wicked fight are over. Your new lover is someone else’s coworker or boss. Create some ground rules as a couple about sharing personal information with your professional peers—and don’t let your relationship play out over the office email. Your on-site tech support might be enjoying your new boyfriend’s racy messages as much as you are.
Nicole Williams is the bestselling author of three books, the latest of which is Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success. Nicole is also LinkedIn's Career Expert. The company she founded, WORKS by Nicole Williams, is the go-to resource for career-minded young women and was named one of Forbes magazine's Top 10 Career Websites for Women. You’ve seen her on TV—as a regular guest on Today, Good Morning America, and CNN—and in print, where her advice has appeared on the pages of SHAPE, Redbook, ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Marie Claire, and the Wall Street Journal. Visit NicoleWilliams.com, and follow her @TheGirlOnTop and on LinkedIn.