The Guide to Dating a Co-worker

Consider these five reasons why dating your co-worker might not be such a good idea.

The Guide to Dating a Co-worker

Dating a co-worker is not without risk.

Ah, the office romance. It happens—sometimes out of nowhere. After all, you spend the majority of your day and week with the same group of people; it’s only natural that it may develop into something more. But dating a co-worker is risky.

When you mix and mingle your love life with your professional life, it can cause unwanted and unexpected drama if it’s not handled the right way. And perhaps it’s even fair to say that some office relationships aren’t a good idea at all. For instance, when one person in the couple exerts career influence over the other.

That said, many happy couples started out as an office romance, so it’s not fair to say that having a crush on a co-worker should be avoided at all costs. However, you and your potential partner should at least give it some serious thought before you forge forward into significant-other territory.

Here are some things to think through before you dive in head over heels.

Are the two of you cut out for an office romance?

It all boils down to the emotional maturity and boundaries that people are able to create. In other words, having a brief fling with someone you work with after a holiday office party is probably not worth the potential awkwardness it can cause later on.

The same goes for the person who’s already dated half the office. But if the person of interest is someone you’ve developed a connection with, and you think there’s real relationship potential, it could be worth taking a chance.

Do you need to disclose that you’re dating a co-worker?

The first thing you need to do is get on the same page as your partner. One of you might want the whole world to know, while the other might think it’s a better idea to keep it under wraps. 

Some companies have policies explicitly forbidding any kind of office romances, while others don’t try to legislate human nature at all. Still others may have a policy that requires you to report that you’re dating a co-worker—at least to HR and/or your immediate manager—especially if there is any kind of connection between the work that you both do.

Your employer may question how dating your co-worker affects your professional goals, reputation, and continued contribution to the organization. You don’t necessarily have to report your first date, but if you plan to continue dating, sneaking around could lead to trouble. For example, if you start expensing dinners together and passing them off as working meetings. That’s a no-no.

From the organization’s perspective, they want to continue benefitting from your skills and experience so if your relationship will decrease your ability to do so, you may be considered less of an asset.

What is the nature of your work relationship?

Whether you are equal business partners, or one of you is on a leadership team that makes decisions that affects the other, or you work in the same department, it can get tricky to keep your personal and professional lives separate. And if one person is in a higher position, there is always the question about how that power factors into any romantic relationships in the workplace.

Take a good look at the power difference and be clear about what you may be doing out of free will and what may be out of your perceived control. For example, giving preferential treatment to your partner at work. What would you have to say if there was ever an inquiry or complaint against you?

Even if you’re confident that you can separate work from play, if this relationship is with either a direct report or someone in management, it’s normally best to remove yourself. Boundaries tend to blur, especially when you attempt to inhabit both partner and boss roles. Larger companies can usually help accommodate such situations, perhaps having one of you change departments.

Will dating a co-worker affect your other work relationships?

Some office romances tend to fuel watercooler gossip, so that’s something you might have to deal with. Let your work performance speak for itself, and try not to engage in that gossip. As long as you both keep things professional at work and don’t throw the relationship in everyone’s face (hint, no PDA!), the gossip crew will turn to something else.

Can you set boundaries and follow them?

It’s all about remembering the hat that you’re wearing in the place that you’re in. On the job, you’re an employee to the company and your partner is a fellow co-worker. That means treating that person at work the same way you treat other people, and keeping the outside relationship outside of the four office walls.

Can you discuss ground rules should the romance fall flat?

Office romances may start off great, but what will happen if there’s an ugly breakup? Although you might not be able to imagine it now, it can happen, and you should feel confident that both of you can move on without jeopardizing your career. Can you see yourself working side by side with an ex?

Learn to love—your job

Being clear on each other’s expectations and having smart conversations before dating a co-worker can be the best thing you do for a budding office romance. Knowing how to handle yourself and your relationships will make your time on the job much easier to navigate. Could you use some more advice on how to handle tricky situations at work? Monster will send you free career advice, job search tips, and workplace insights that can help you through loads of scenarios that you'll likely face at one time or another.