Should You Take a Chance On a Workplace Romance?

Answer these 4 questions before mixing work and pleasure

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workplace romance
(Image: J. Mone’t Photography)

The love of your life could be sitting a few cubicles away, but is an office romance worth the risk? While most of us were taught to never mix business with pleasure, the reality is, it happens more than people would like to admit. According to a recent survey by the job-search website, 4 out of 10 employees have dated someone at work; 17% have done it twice.

[Related: The Ultimate Travel Bucket List for Couples]

So here’s the thing, a successful workplace romance may lead to a loving relationship with a promise of commitment at the altar. On the flip side, a workplace romance gone wrong can lead to a slew of complications, including a drop in performance, workplace violence, allegations of sexual harassment, embarrassment at work, etc. Sure, this may seem extreme, but at the very least if it doesn’t work out, working with your ex every day may make you (and everyone else) very uncomfortable.

So, to help you make a well-informed decision, caught up with Nicole K. Webb, HR expert and founder of NK Webb Group, to compile 5 questions you should consider before considering a workplace romance.

Does your company policy prohibit workplace romances?
Check with your company’s HR department to see if there is a policy that prohibits workplace romance. Contrary to popular belief, these policies are not designed to monitor one’s personal affairs, but instead to ensure fairness and impartiality in the workplace for all.

Sometimes employees are just encouraged to disclose the relationship to management and sign a “love contract.” These particular contracts are prevalent in private-sector agencies and require both employees to acknowledge in writing that they are engaged in a consensual personal relationship and are aware of specific company policies, such as sexual harassment, to prevent issues down the line. It’s also common for companies to have nepotism policies, which outline the types of personal relationships and reporting structures that are allowed within the workplace. This can help reduce claims of favoritism, and Cronyism–partiality towards friends and associates.

Does your romantic prospect have a history of dating his or her coworkers? Unfortunately, there are people who are known for dating throughout the organization. So take note because you certainly don’t want to be known as the “flavor of the month.” Learn what you can about the individual by asking them directly and by making small talk with long-tenured staff about your romantic prospect to see if any information surfaces.

How close in proximity will you be working to your romantic prospect?

Dating a colleague at the workplace can take a toll on the relationship. Can you separate your professional and personal relationship while at work? This includes avoiding public displays of affection or arguments at the office, which could be a distraction to your fellow colleagues.

If the romance doesn’t work out, can you deal with working with this individual on a day-to-day basis? No one wants to think about a potential failed relationship before it’s even had the chance to begin. But let’s face it, it’s not uncommon for workplace romances to go south, and one person may not handle the break up very well. The last thing you need is workplace drama, gossip, or a sexual harassment complaint.

What is your gut instinct telling you? Sometimes it’s just that simple. The feeling in the pit of your stomach is usually guiding you in the right direction.

Once you’ve answered these questions, take a few moments to think about this–It takes years to build your reputation but only seconds to ruin it. The chance you take on a workplace romance must be well thought out so it doesn’t negatively impact your career.

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  • Lex the Associate

    Thankfully, I learned this lesson at the tender age of 16 when I got my boyfriend at the time hired at my part-time job. It was so nice seeing him more often. Until the day I found out he was running around town and had to go into work and see him the next day. Bringing that angry, humiliation and resentment into my job was not healthy or productive and the best course of action for the situation probably would have been to take a fews days away from each other to reevaluate our relationship, but we both had to go to work. Eventually we patched things up (we were 16), only for him to get us both fired a few weeks later as a result of a no call, no show on his part. Years, degrees and a whole career later, love don’t live in my office.

    I think one question to be added to this list is: Is one of you in a supervisory capacity with respect to the other? I realize the nod to sexual harassment kind of covers this, but let’s be clear: Black people are often held to higher standards and face heavier consequences when navigating these sorts of office politics.

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  • Jasmine

    I think it could be a good thing if you do consider the questions above. Naturally we spend a lot of time in our work environment and the forces of becoming attracted to someone in that environment can be inevitable