In Defense of Romance in the Workplace
By Marty Nemko
I have a bias toward romance in the workplace. You see, I met my wife at work.
Yeah, I know conventional wisdom says office romance is a no-no, but I think that’s unfortunate. You’re much more likely to meet Mr or Ms Right at work than at a bar or dance. At work, you get to see what the person’s like day in and day out. Plus, you don’t have to spend night after night at singles events waiting for Mr. or Ms.Goodbar.
If your employer permits coworker dating, here are some ways to maximize the lovin’ while minimizing the riskin’.
Be honest with your prospective partner. If you’re looking only for a quick fling, don’t make long-term-relationship noises in your efforts to seduce. If you do and then after a hot date or two, suddenly cool off, let alone start flirting with another officemate, you’re asking for big-time reprisals. Remember the old saw, “Hell hath no fury like a woman (or a man?) scorned”?
Think twice before starting a relationship with your boss. Even if your workplace permits it, beware. If you later break up, your boss may retaliate. For example, “I need you to do this extra work”…Or, “I can’t let you take an extra 15 minutes for lunch” or, “I won’t give you additional resources.” The opportunities for torturing you are endless.
In fairness, sometimes a relationship with a boss can yield special privileges: “How did he get the corner office?” Even if the boss decides to end the relationship, the boss may give you a promotion or other perk to reduce the risk of your filing a grievance. One study found that 64% of women who had a romantic relationship with their boss reported that, as a result, their work situation improved.
Think 10 times before starting a relationship with your supervisee. That’s risky even if the relationship is working well. For example, your honey/supervisee begs for a plum assignment which, from a business perspective, you believe should go to someone else, yet you feel forced to say yes to your snookums. And if you break up, you’re in real danger—s/he could claim abuse of the power imbalance between the two of you. You could lose your job and gain a subpoena.
Keep it quiet. I know, I know, when you’re in love, it’s tempting to tell everyone in the office. Mistake. From then on, both of you will be under the microscope. It’s dangerous even if you’re peers. For example, if you’re seen helping your sweetie with work, someone else who also needs your help may complain to your boss that you’re playing favorites.
But you protest, “The chemistry between us is so obvious; everyone already knows we’re having a relationship.” Chances are many co-workers don’t know—they’re wrapped up in themselves; they’re not monitoring the vibes between every pair of people that walk by. Other co-workers may suspect but can’t be sure. But confirm your relationship to just one person and chances are, the whole office will know by tomorrow. And it takes just one disgruntled co-worker to make your life miserable. Until it’s time to send the wedding invitations, keep the relationship to yourselves.
You might even both sign a “prenup” such as:
We recognize that an office romance can be risky for both of us. To reduce these risks, we agree to make best efforts to:
ü Keep secret our relationship until which time we both agree it’s appropriate to go public.
ü In work matters, treat each other as we would other co-workers. Favoritism will likely come back to bite us.
ü If we break up, there’s particular danger. If there is an aggrieved party, he or she will not retaliate.
Here’s to a great relationship.
Partner 1 Partner 2
As I said earlier, the office is a darn good place to meet a romantic partner. Unlike in a bar, where you pick mainly on impulse and an alcohol-impaired chat, at work you get to see more of what a person is really like. So, you’re more likely to find love at the office water cooler than at a barstool.
Just follow the above rules to reduce your risk and then focus on having a great time. Being in love is wonderful.
© Marty Nemko 2004-2017. Usage Rights