Have Your Office Affair – But Keep It Clean!

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I thought it best to look at a subject close to our hearts – office romance. In years past, the simplest thing to say about office romance was just “don’t do it”. However, with more hours devoted to the office than ever, that advice is becoming increasingly naive. I met my husband at work, and know lots of friends who have had serious relationships with people they met through their jobs. Office romances can work

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Sure, we’d like to meet our future mate at a drinks party or via an introduction by a good friend. But most working women I know lament they don’t have enough time to see those good friends in the first place, let alone the people they’d like to set us up with! I just can’t see how infrequent blind dates via match.com are going to have the same pull as daily banter with that special someone from accounts when you are meant to be discussing excel spreadsheets. With that in mind, I decided to offer three of the best tips for having an office romance, but keeping it clean.

  • Check the red tape: Before you take an office flirtation further, look at your company manual to see not only what type of relationships are condoned and when you have to notify HR. Some relationships will be legal no go areas (direct line of reporting, actual or potential clients, etc). Also check to see what is considered sexual harassment, to make sure you don’t get into hot water.
  • Be discreet: Take it from me, you and your paramour will often be sussed out by colleagues even if you think you are keeping it on the down low. Don’t kid yourself, you are not fooling anyone. Other women notice subtle changes between colleagues and will resent the woman in particular if they think you are hiding something. Date for several months before you announce it to the world. If it’s a fling you don’t want to have proclaimed your undying devotion to someone who dumps you via a post-it note after a few weeks.
  • Seek distance: If you both think the relationship is worth holding onto, at least one of you should seek a reassignment to another project, division, office or even company. It’s hard for colleagues to work with couples and also makes you vulnerable to unflattering speculation about how you earned that last promotion. Seeking a secondment or a transfer to another team helps mollify the situation and also allows you to see if the relationship will grow past a convenient water cooler distraction.

If you want a more highbrow, but entertaining explanation about the attraction of office sex check out this video clip of Alain de Botton, who talks a little about what he found when researching The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work Alternatively you might enjoy the book “Office Hours” by Lucy Kellaway, a funny novel about romance in the work place. For more stories on Office Politics click here.

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