Dating at Work: Rules for Dating a Co-Worker

Yes, it is possible to find love at work

It’s no wonder that finding someone at work is a common way that couples began dating. You spend most of your time at the office, so it’s natural to find yourself attracted to someone at your company.

Although many experts advise against dating in the workplace, it is possible to do it safely, without damaging your career. Mixing your private life with your career can be hazardous if you do it wrong, but it can also be rewarding if you end up finding your soulmate in an adjoining cubicle.

So here’s how to do it right if you want to be the next real-life Jim and Pamela, a la “The Office.”


How risky is your attraction

Of course, the first rule that cannot be broken is, do not date your boss. No matter how good-looking he is, or how charming. Even if your company allows it, if you date your boss, others will think that you're getting a raise, or a promotion, simply because of your relationship.

And you’ll be in an uncomfortable situation if you break up. If you end the relationship, you have to consider that he'll try to retaliate. If he breaks up with you, then you will have to continue working closely with someone who dumped you, and act as if you’re still feeling friendly toward them whether you like it or not.

It’s also better to not date anyone who works in your department. Again, it could be extremely uncomfortable if you break up and still have to see each other daily. Even if you’re a “good breaker-upper”, the other party might not take it so well.

So, with those key points out of the way, consider the possibility of dating co-workers in other departments. That’s your best bet if you want to date someone at your office without risking your career.

Once you find someone you want to try dating, Susan L. Edelman, psychiatrist and author of the award-winning book, Be Your Own Brand of Sexy: A New Sexual Revolution for Women, said you should find out what your company’s guidelines are for interoffice dating. It might be completely forbidden. And while that makes the attraction even more appealing, it’s not worth losing your job over.  

“It’s in your best interest to know just how risky your attraction is. If you’re the boss, you could end up with a harassment lawsuit. If you’re the underling, you could be perceived as trying to sleep your way to the top. That might endanger your job, and you might get a lot of unwanted attention from the men at work. If you ask someone out, that might even be considered harassment. You may need legal advice,” Edelman said.

If the rules are lax, or you’re willing to gamble, proceed with caution. Many women today think the only protections they need with men are condoms and birth control pills, so they don’t think about protecting their hearts. This is one area where it’s especially important, she said.

Joni Holderman, founder of Thrive! Resumes, said it’s important to be transparent about your relationship and motives. If your company allows dating between coworkers, go to HR early and mention that the two of you are dating. This can also prevent difficulties later, when a jilted party claims they were coerced into a relationship.

Don’t opt for a casual one-night stand

If you are about to embark on a relationship with someone at work, dating is a safer strategy than hooking up. “Taking it slow is a much better option because you have a chance to get to know him before you get involved. As you’ve probably noticed, relationships don’t always end well. If it blows up in your face, it might damage your career. What if he’s bitter and tells everyone the gory details? He might not put you in a good light when he tells the story. He might make a scene. You’re better off knowing in advance whether you can trust him to handle a breakup maturely,” Edelman said.

“When you take it slow, you can find out if he wants what you want. Does he want a relationship or is he looking for a casual fling? Why jump into something that will potentially be awkward for you at work if someone has hurt feelings? Also, you can discuss the difficulties of dating someone at work to see how you two will handle it. What would you do if one of you finds out about layoffs in the other’s department, but must keep it secret? Are you both comfortable if everyone finds out you’re dating, even if you try to hide it? If you meet behind closed doors, will people wonder what you’ve got up your sleeves?” Edelman said.

And remember, “There is always the chance that your office romance can blossom into a promising relationship. If you protect your heart and your job, you’ll be okay with or without that romance," she said.

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