With so much of our time and energy spent in one place with the opposite sex, it is only natural that many of our relationships would begin at work. But is having a workplace romance a smart move?
Though it wasn’t so long ago that the Leave it to Beaver picture of the modern family was more accurate than not, to say that “this ain’t your granddaddy’s labor force,” would be an understatement today. In a dramatic departure from the time when men would come home from work, throw open the door, inhale the sweet aroma of freshly-baked apple pie, and call out “Honey, I’m home,” the modern workplace is a fairly even mix of both sexes.
Also forgone is the antiquated notion of a nine to five work day, replaced instead by a stress-filled, overtime-required, deadlines-looming, all-consuming schedule where the number of hours spent in any particular pay-period can reach astronomic levels. With that much of our time and energy spent in one place and with the opposite sex, it is only natural that many of our relationships would begin at work. But is having a workplace romance a smart move?
Ask the average hard-working, career-minded woman how her boss feels about the prospect of her dating another employee, and she will probably say something along the lines of, “it is frowned upon.” Ask her boss the same question, however, and you may be surprised to get a very different response. Although this shift in thinking has been slow in coming, what was once considered a strictly forbidden idea—the workplace romance—if handled gingerly can add both a sense of diversity and of family to the corporate culture of a company at large. Here are a few ways you can avoid the potholes on the road to a healthy and positive workplace romance.
Keep It Under Wraps...At Least At First
A new relationship is an exciting thing—the kind of thing that makes you want to jump up and down on the furniture and declare to the world how, after years of horrific dates and lonely nights, you have finally found the one. If you have found him at work however, you may want to keep your inner Tom Cruise at bay and your feet firmly planted on the floor.
For some of you, thinking of your boss or your coworkers as children will not be too much of a stretch, but like a single mother, unwilling to introduce the kids to every guy she goes out with, be careful to keep things under wraps until you are absolutely sure that the relationship is a long-term one. Announcing that you have found the love of your life in tomorrow’s staff meeting will only serve to feed the voracious appetite of the office gossips if in a few weeks you discover that he slurps his soup, wears socks with his Crocs on the weekends, watches 90210 reruns from within the comfort of a Snuggie, or some other equally unpardonable character flaw.
If the relationship is grounded shortly after it begins, you will have avoided any unnecessary awkwardness by keeping things quiet.
Who’s The Boss?
Though we have established that the corner-office, designated-parking-space set probably doesn’t have a hard-and-fast no-dating policy, there are nevertheless some boundaries that should be adhered to. The most important is that you should never date someone who is in direct authority over you. Though the obvious issue of preferential treatment and the inevitable resentment of your coworkers may be something you are willing to endure, you might be surprised to find your professional growth actually stunted in an attempt to avoid the appearance of that same favoritism.
Another potential pitfall is that of relationship dynamics. While you may think that you are perfectly capable of flipping an internal switch and turning off the subordinate or superior roll the second you step out of the office, he may not be. Contrarily, keeping your personal issues or lover’s spats from finding their way into your professional relationship is likely an unrealistic expectation.
Give Yourself Room To Breathe
In those first few euphoric months you may relish the idea of being together 24 glorious hours a day. However, once the birds stop singing his name and every love song on the radio is no longer about you, the idea of waking up, getting ready, eating breakfast, driving to your job, spending the workday, driving home, eating dinner, watching TV, and going to bed together five or more days a week will eventually become less than attractive.
Find space where you can. If at all possible, stagger your schedule from his so that the time you spend getting ready and driving to work is set apart for you. Also, try spending your lunch break alone or with friends. Even an hour or two a day will be enough to keep your relationship from becoming claustrophobic.
If handled with care, a workplace romance can change a mundane job into something completely fulfilling; it can give a common relationship an unbreakable foundation based on mutual goals and interests. If you are reckless and sloppy with it, however, you may not only end up single, but you may find yourself looking for your next date from among the potential suitors in the unemployment line.