I know what you’re thinking—yikes. Dating a co-worker is taboo to say the least, but did you know that 12% of couples met their significant other at work last year?
Lucky (or unlucky) for me, I fall within these statistics. I’ve been working for my company for two years and started dating my co-worker about nine months ago.
While there’s plenty of advice out there on navigating an office romance, I know from experience there are also a lot of emotions involved when it comes to starting a relationship with your co-worker—especially when you finally find that job you really love and don’t want to risk losing it.
Here are some of my insider tips:
Understand Office Rules
Please, please, please don’t take this lightly. Each office has different standards for workplace relationships. In our case, the handbook didn’t say much in terms of office relationships, so we had a talk with our manager and CEO to make sure we understood expectations. (To this day, my boyfriend and I like to joke that we created a new section of the employee handbook.) Had things been different for us, we would not have pursued a relationship while still working together.
Make sure you know what your handbook states regarding romance inside the office and follow the rules closely—and communicate with HR if you’re unsure.
Be Prepared to Work Harder
Embarking on a relationship inside the office means you’re putting yourself under a microscope. We knew our work would be critiqued even harder, and this has forced us not to be complacent and to go the extra mile, knowing that when faced with scrutiny, our work ethic would speak for itself.
The most important thing you can do when starting a relationship in the office is to make sure your work comes first and to continue giving 110%.
Know What’s Appropriate
The easiest way to become the center of the office whisperings is to bring it on yourself. My boyfriend and I knew that blatant PDA in the workplace was out of the question, but we also knew there were subtle ways we could cause others to feel uncomfortable, too, like grabbing each other a coffee or sitting together during meetings. To make sure we didn’t cross any lines, we set clear expectations with our management from the get-go about what was appropriate.
Make Light of It
Sometimes the easiest way to deal with any gossip is to make light of the situation. Dating a colleague can feel like an open invitation for your co-workers to pry. Instead of getting frustrated, we try to keep our emotions at bay and brush comments off. By doing this, you’ll create less of a target for yourself and hopefully keep truly damaging remarks from forming.
Of course, this only goes for situations involving harmless jokes and banter. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re being bullied, that’s not OK and you should speak with your manager or HR immediately.
My experience is certainly unique, and each office will have its own twists and turns when it comes to office romances. However, if you handle them professionally and respectfully, there’s no reason they should affect your success in your career (for both of you).