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Workplace Romances – Should you Date a Co-Worker?

It isn’t surprising that the work place is the #1 spot for both singles to meet their mates and for straying husbands or wives to find their mister or mistress. In fact, Business Week magazine reports that 82% of extramarital affairs happen in the workplace, many of which begin unwittingly. For companies, this news is nothing new and policies have been slowly put into place for a decade now designed to ‘allow’ workplace romances without causing the business end to suffer. Some of these policies are hidden in the language of sexual harassment while others exist in non-compete or non-disclosure policies. The truth is that you can’t stop love and now that men and women are working so close together in the workplace, romance is sure to continue,

The trend to workplace romances picked up around 20 years ago when more women began pursuing professional careers. Certainly, they occurred before that point, however not to the extent that they do now. The reasons that they often occur are pretty clear-cut. When two people with a common interest or passion, as well as a common understanding spend so many hours together camaraderie develops. This person can quickly appear to understand you more than your spouse does, or at least better than anyone else, what it is you go through every day. From that point, friendship can turn to an emotional attachment. If you aren’t married, this isn’t such a bad thing and it gives the two of you plenty to talk about and discuss. However if you are married, this ‘relationship’ offers a break from the routines of family life that seems easier and more natural. Quickly, many of the same conversations you used to have with someone else (spouse, boyfriend etc) are now being shared exclusively between the two of you making for an easy attraction that can lead to a physical affair. Suffice it to say that if you are married, workplace romances are never a good thing!

If you are single however, working in a professional field that you love – it only makes sense that you would share certain qualities with your co-workers. Because affluence in communication develops at a faster pace at work (because it has to) there is less awkwardness to deal with. Brainstorming sessions or after hour meetings can turn into stolen romantic interludes and the comfort level is already there. Of course, it is absolutely important to ensure that you are remaining within company policy and that if any conflict of interest situations exist, that you deal with those fast. Depending on the seriousness of the workplace romance, it may be wise for one of you to seek alternate employment.

What if the Relationship Doesn’t Work

One thing that you may not consider while you are in the start-up phase of a workplace romance is how things will be should the relationship not work. It is fair to say that we rarely know every little detail about the people we date and some can turn out to be downright strange. Before you share deep, dark secrets, you may want to consider the affect they can have on your career should a break-up ensue and these personal tidbits be leaked. Keep in mind as well, that the close professional relationship you have now, that got you into this mess, may become a mess when the two of you are no longer romantically involved. Even if you are thinking that this is your “forever person,” remind yourself how many times you have thought this before. Working together when you are breaking up can be frustrating, painful and may take a great deal of stamina in order to resolve. And worse, if a former lover is suddenly spreading rumors about you – your professional and personal reputation can be easily damaged.

Many businesses strongly discourage workplace romance. Despite or perhaps in spite of policy, businesses are acutely aware that love in the workplace has the potential to cost them thousands if not millions of dollars. One leaked trade secret, a sexual harassment lawsuit or other impending situations can arise at any time. If your company looks down on this sort of thing, then do your best to keep it a secret and out of the office. If you are married and having an affair – be extra careful as your head could quickly be on the chopping block.

When it comes to your professional life, you have to always remain aware of where you want it to go. Is it worth some man or woman coming between you and the job of your dreams? Often, office relationships can breed jealousy and the reinvention of the rumor mill to run wild – especially in the office. The old double standard often has the woman in the situation belittled for her flirtatiousness, compromising her professional integrity. While it is true that being in the same line of work, with the same company, and having endless hours to spend together are definitely bonuses – the extremes of falling in love can cause a dip in both your performance and security.

Being honest though, workplace love is fun, fun, fun. Sharing secret innuendos, making out in the coat closet while on break or sneaking off in separate directions only to meet during lunch hour can make you feel like a teen again. The forbidden fruit is always the tastiest. While the newness and appeal can be about the sneaking, hiding and excitement that come from trying to shield your workplace romance from the rest – you have to make sure that there is more substance to the relationship than just that. Many people find that once they are ousted, things can become much less entertaining and with that decline in excitement, comes a decline in the passion and ‘love.’ Sometimes, people single or otherwise – are just looking for ways to spice up their lives rather than form committed, long-term and meaningful relationships. If this is the case, you could be taking a chance with your future in more ways than one, so whatever you do – proceed with caution.

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