“What We Really Think About Office Romance”

Attracted to a cute colleague? Read these do's and don'ts of workplace love — straight from the boss.

by Chelsea Kaplan

hen it comes to love among the cubicles, most bosses have seen it all: from the lovebirds who linger a little too long over lunch to the ones caught smooching in the supply closet. Dealing with employees who date is just part of the job for higher-ups. What they want you to know is this: The way you handle your interoffice tryst could just save your career—not to mention your relationship. Take a cue from these bosses and learn how to navigate your way:

Don't hit "send" just yet
"Let me assure you—your office e-mail is never safe from corporate eyes! We have a documented no-interoffice-dating policy, but there were two people who didn't cover
The way you handle your interoffice tryst could just save your career—not to mention your relationship.
their tracks very well and still thought they could get away with it. HR finally busted them after looking into their e-mail files and discovering a number of (borderline-X-rated) e-mails! Moral of the story: if you're trying to keep your relationship quiet, don't document it on company e-mail!"
—Miles Stevens, 41, finance industry, New York, NY

A denial don't
"I once had two employees who were dating and everyone knew it, but they denied it for months. It made both of them look untrustworthy, and even a little sketchy, despite the fact that they were really great workers. If they had been honest about their relationship, I doubt anyone would have cared much. Their lying raised more eyebrows than their dating ever would have."
—Barbara Young, 37, television production, Secaucus, NJ

Terms of endearment
"Once a partner in my law firm who was dating another partner referred to her as 'babe' during a huge client meeting! If you're trying to keep your relationship under wraps, always call your significant other by his or her actual name! "
—Donna Portlerer, 40, legal industry, Washington, D.C.

Traveling baggage
"Last year, two employees in the same sales division became a couple. They often had to travel together to client meetings, as they always made presentations together. Shortly after they began dating, I heard they were missing important morning meetings and fumbling through presentations, presumably because they'd been up all night! Eventually, they were both fired. If you travel with your other half on the company dime, keep your focus on work: Don't share a room, don't go out for romantic dinners, and don't ever miss a meeting."
—Gary Zimmerman, 52, telecommunications industry, Atlanta, GA

Do you copy?
"I once had to have a very stern talk with two employees who constantly used the office copier for pictures of their hands together, their faces kissing, and little mementos from their dates. Not only did it waste paper and unnecessarily occupy the copier, but it was completely cheesy and annoying! Don't let your being in love cause you to lose your sense of appropriateness—or sense in general!"
—Regan Lynch, 34, education, Glen Rock, NJ

Enough about you!
"I've had employees date, move in together, even get married. The one thing I can't stand is when they constantly talk about their relationship at work as if we all have a special interest in it. Not everyone wants to know about the first time you meet the parents, or your new dining room furniture. Save those things for lunch. Or back at home."
—Francesca Kim, 37, management consulting, Princeton, NJ

Don't go groping
"You're not fooling anyone when you and a coworker retreat into an empty conference room or close your office door for a 'working lunch.' I once opened our cleaning-supply closet to find two coworkers in an extremely compromising position! Please—if you're dating in the
"My pet peeve is when people who are dating come to work late together..."
office, save your extra-curricular activities for the bedroom."
—Richard Marcus, 34, professional sports industry, New York, NY

Make the news beer-able
"My employees and I often go out for drinks on Fridays after work. That's usually when they break the news to me that they're dating. I actually like the tactic. I'd probably be less supportive if they marched into my office during the day and made an announcement."
—Bob Hartman, 36, pharmaceutical sales, New York, NY

Keep an eye on the clock
"My pet peeve is when people who are dating come to work late together, take long lunches or coffee breaks together, or leave early together. Just because you're seeing someone you work with doesn't give you license to set your own schedule."
—Jennifer Reade, 30, retail sales, Fort Worth, TX

The morning after
"The people in my office socialize together after work. You wouldn't believe how often couples forget they're surrounded by coworkers. There's nothing worse than witnessing a passionate make-out session or a screaming fight, then seeing those same people the next day. Even though you're not at work, keep in mind that you're still with people from work!"
—Deena Hopkins, 36, salon manager, Roswell, GA

Writer Chelsea Kaplan has been married for nearly four years to a former colleague.
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