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The truth about dating a colleague

By Faeza
12 July 2016

A concerned worker writes:

WHAT is your take on office romance? A colleague has been paying me a lot of attention lately. We are both single and available.     When I asked the HR manager, just to see if what we are thinking of doing is allowed, all I was told was that it is not encouraged, because people often fail to separate work from their relationship.

But they also said that they cannot stop us, if we decide to go ahead with a relationship. So, nothing expressly forbids it. Although the guy hasn’t said anything yet, I just want to make sure I have covered all bases.

LET me start by stating the obvious. You really are putting the horse before the cart. I have to warn you against investing your time, energy and attention to a relationship that may never happen at all.     I understand that you want to be prepared and to know what you are getting yourself into.

But the truth is, you could just as easily have done all this due diligence after he had stated his intentions with you.     It is not as if you need to have an answer ready for him the moment he asks you. If his feelings are real, then he needs to be willing to wait.

I just think that you will end up getting ahead of yourself, getting excited, getting stressed, getting worked up over a situation that may never happen.

FIRST STEP

So, really your first step in this entire thing is to determine his motives, and while you are at it, determine yours. Sometimes we are drawn to somebody because we lack options, or because we just happen to be spending a lot of time together.

But on closer inspection we discover that all that is happening is that we were influenced by proximity and that now that we are with the person, they are not as perfect for us as we thought they might be.

Think about it, if you were on a desert island, and there were only two of you there, you would inevitably bond with somebody you would ordinarily have never even given a second glance to. Look at that possibility, before you jump. What do you like about him? What do you have in common, beyond being stuck in the same office and loving or hating your job?

UGLY BREAK-UP

The other thing you really need to pay attention to is: What levels are you on? Does any one of you report to the other? Once again, this is not necessarily because of rules that may preclude this, but rather because of possible negative perceptions from colleagues.

People might start seeing favouritism where none exists.     They might start thinking that people are getting preferential treatment and even salary raises simply because they are dating the boss. Are you ready for that kind of drama?    The next point, you have already looked into, but let me mention it anyway.

Check the company policy on colleagues dating. Make sure that there is no policy that expressly prevents you from doing so.     Most companies will forbid it simply because of the many things that could go wrong. Fights from home could blow up in the workplace.

People could get distracted from their work, when they are constantly seeing each other in the office. Worst case scenario; the relationship ends and it is an ugly break-up. Now you have to see each other every day in the office. Very awkward!

KEEP YOUR BOUNDARIES

Ideally, you are better off dating somebody who is in an entirely different department to yours. Somebody you don’t have to sit across the desk and be professional with, on a daily basis.     That way you never really have to deal with each other at work. Try practice some discretion, too. Don’t walk around the office building holding hands.

In fact, the less people know about your relationship, the better you are handling it. Think about this: Do your colleagues know the guy you dated before this guy? Probably not, because it was none of their business. And it happened outside the office.

Try keep it the same, now.

Everything that happens between you should happen outside of work. In short, know your boundaries. Don’t start calling him ‘honey’ at the office.     At work, he is your colleague and at home, he can be your  ‘honey’.

Maintain your safe distance and separate identities. Do not start being ‘Mike’s girlfriend’ at work. Continue to be you, have your opinions, disagree with him where you ordinarily would. The workplace is not the place to strengthen your relationship.

BE PREPARED

Now, if you are sure that you will be able to do all of this, then perhaps you might be ready for this relationship. Just know that the odds are stacked heavily against it. So, be prepared.

Having said all of this, I will go back to my first point. He has not asked you out yet. So, let us not jump the gun.    But if things do progress in that direction, then I wish you all the best.