The Company Dating Game
Finding someone to love can be as challenging as finding a job/career that you like, but both can be done. However, it’s preferable not to do both at the same place. I could dig up statistics and a few research studies offering concrete evidence that dating a coworker rarely works, but I can also point to a few (very few) instances where such an arrangement has not only worked out, the relationship progressed over a considerable period of time, and in one case even led to marriage. That, however, is very rare. Still, it’s a personal choice each person must make when the situation presents itself because only you can decide whether the juice will be worth the squeeze.
You may be attracted to someone in your office. Their mind may call to you as you watch them work out a tricky problem satisfactorily. Their body may appeal to you. Their manner may strike you as particularly professional and kind, and their smile while laughing at a funny story from someone’s weekend may cast a rosy light on that long unused little path in your belly that leads to your heart. “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” you ask yourself.
That’s an excellent question. Consider that you only know this person in the office. Even if you’ve gone out for drinks together or interacted socially at a company party, there is usually a tiny bit of restraint that follows gatherings with coworkers. For the purposes of fast blog illustration, let’s call it the office drag. People are rarely, truly, themselves in a situation where their coworkers are present, and that’s perfectly understandable. You have to see those people at the office on Monday if you get plastered at the annual Holiday party and live down any indiscretions you may have inadvertently revealed while under the influence.
Most people are forgiving. They were probably plastered with you! But the restraint is still there because as career professionals, we understand that even social situations are judged and may leave impressions that follow you (the office drag) and crop up at the worst possible moment: I don’t think Jane/John’s the right person to lead the team for that new IT conversion. The project’s too big, and it involves meeting with vendors. There may be dinners and lunches where there’s alcohol involved, and remember how s/he acted at __?
Think of it this way. Do you share your whole self at work? Probably not. It’s not appropriate to air all of your personal foibles in the workplace. It’s unprofessional. Your potential love interest is no different. I’m not saying he or she is hiding a tail or a sixth toe or something equally disturbing, but it’s something to think about. If you date this person, really get to know them and discover that their office persona is only a small part of the equation, and if you don’t like the other parts, your office relationship could easily be compromised. When emotions enter a professional environment, problems usually follow. Can you maintain your cool? Can you separate last night from this morning and keep all of these interactions private?
That’s another piece. Bosses usually frown on inter-office romances not just because of the shenanigans that can occur when feelings get hurt, but because of the potential for sexual harassment litigation. Weigh the pros and cons thoroughly before you make that romantic jump. If your feelings are returned, take the time to talk seriously and at length with your heart’s desire about the pros and cons of entering into a romantic relationship while working together. Getting to know the person you’d like to love is advisable in any situation, but never more so than when that person works two cubicles away and has the potential to make things miserable for you eight hours a day, five days a week.