We all know office relationships are complicated. And somewhere in your company’s employee handbook is a list of policies that probably says employees shouldn’t get romantically involved.
But office relationships still happen. Even good employees find themselves wanting to make the most out of an office romance, while continuing to make the most out of their job.
Here’s what to do if you and a co-worker fall for each other (assuming you’re both unmarried):
• Don’t feel guilty for falling in love at work. Your employer worked hard to fill the company with people who share the same values, principles, work ethic, skills, and education. Plus, you’re together for 8 to 12 hours a day. So it’s not that surprising that romances tend to spark between employees. No matter what happens, don’t feel guilty.
[For another perspective, see Be Wary About Chancing a Workplace Romance.]
• Don’t go public until you’re sure the relationship will last. Since not all companies will be happy about your good news, it’s in your interest—and the interest of your partner—to be sure the the relationship is real and worth investing in before having that conversation with the boss.
• Decide who’s willing to leave their job if it gets too tough to handle. While you might not be officially told you can’t have a relationship in the workplace, you may get that subtle vibe from your boss or your boss’s boss. Before you disclose the relationship to your colleagues, determine whether you or your lover would be willing to leave the job if the news isn’t accepted as you’d like.
• Disclose the relationship to your boss at the same time your partner discloses it to his or hers. If you have the same boss, you won’t have this problem. But if you have different bosses, make sure one doesn’t hear about the relationship from the other. It’s better to break the news yourself. Tell your boss that you’d both like to continue working for the company, that you’re just as committed—if not more so—than you were before.
• Go out of your way to keep it low key at work. Once the relationship is public, put extra effort into making sure everything comes across as “normal,” and that you remain professional. Keep your work time for work and your time outside of work for the relationship. That means having lunch with your co-workers and not your partner.
• Stay mum while at work. You may be privy to confidential information because of your relationship, but don’t disclose it at work. Keep your relationship and work separate as much as possible.
• Maintain good relations at all times. For your own sanity, never talk about work when either of you are horizontal. It’s just good relationship management. ‘Nuff said.
So if you find yourself tangled in an office romance, don’t feel like you have to give up your work or your love interest. I’m speaking from experience; my wife and I met at work. We dated clandestinely for a year, agreed that one of us would be willing to walk away from the job if there was a problem, and ended up tying the knot while still working for the same company. And yes, both of our bosses attended the wedding!
Rusty Rueff, director and career expert for jobs and career website Glassdoor.com has been a CEO, led HR in global companies and is co-author of Talent Force: A New Manifesto for the Human Side of Business.