Office Romance-3 New Rules

Crushing on your coworker in the cube across the hall? Don’t make a move without reading this first!

By Amelia Stone

hinking of taking a dip in the office dating pool? It’s no surprise that work is a great place to find love. After all, recent surveys show that somewhere between 38 and 59 percent of us will date a coworker at some point. But getting involved with the man or woman in the
It’s no surprise that work is a great place to find love.
next cubicle can be tricky territory indeed, says Sue Fox, author of Business Etiquette for Dummies. What precautions should you take if you want to end up on the winning side of such statistics? First, check your company manual to see what the official policy is with regards to dating on the job. (Most companies allow it, but some firms — especially pharmaceutical companies and government offices — have stricter policies on the matter, especially in this sheriff’s office in Tennessee.) Then, avoid these three common romantic blunders:

Rule #1: Dating up — or down — in your own department could put you both at risk
We all know a story about the boss who secretly (or not-so-secretly) dated an assistant. That’s a major misstep, according to experts on the subject. “When there’s a great disparity between the status of the people involved, it can be problematic,” says Mark Oldman, co-founder of, a resource for job seekers. Not only do issues of favoritism and resentment come into play, but the supervisor/employee relationship is ripe for sexual harassment issues down the road.

David Zuckerman, a former movie producer and developer on Family Guy in Los Angeles, discovered the pitfalls of dating outside of his rank when he started seeing an assistant (not, he’s quick to point out, his own) in his production office. “The other assistants would get jealous, thinking that she got special treatment because of her relationship [with me],” says Zuckerman. “And honestly, I distracted her from her job, and her direct supervisor hated me for it.”

That doesn’t, of course, mean that single coworkers can only romance others on the same corporate rung as themselves. “If the relationship involves a supervisor and a subordinate, they need to both take pains to establish that the relationship is consensual,” says Oldman. Fox suggests that the person in the higher position inform his or her direct supervisor about the relationship first: “Eventually, it might be possible to move one of them to a different division or position,” she explains.

Rule #2: Being careless with romantic clues about your romance could expose you
When you’re on the verge of a burgeoning relationship, expressing your feelings for the other person can seem like the most natural thing to do. But when love notes are being passed on company time, so to speak, they can go public quickly... despite your best intentions. Everyone has accidentally sent an email to the wrong person at least once, right? Imagine if that “You were great
Emails can always be retrieved, even if they’re deleted.
last night” email was erroneously addressed to Human Resources instead of Holly or Hunter, and you get the idea.

“People should know that all electronic mail is the property of the company. Emails can always be retrieved, even if they’re deleted,” adds Fox. This doesn’t mean that your employer is watching and reading every last missive in the hopes of catching a fling in action, but if there’s ever a reason for everyone’s emails to be examined (say, a lawsuit), your “private” feelings could be exposed.

Experts recommend never committing anything personal to the page — in email form or otherwise. “Don’t write down something you wouldn’t want to see on your office bulletin board,” says Oldman, who suggests that daters limit their written communication to “short, cryptic messages.” Says Fox, “Of course, an innocent note — like ‘Let’s meet for lunch’ — is OK.”

Rule #3: Avoid displays of affection in the workplace
It’s bad enough watching a couple canoodle at a restaurant, but seeing coworkers get too close for comfort is in a whole other league of uncomfortable. Most romantic partners have enough common sense to know that hands-on behavior in the workplace is highly unprofessional. Says Morgan Gatins of Brooklyn, NY, who started dating a guy at her production office: “He’d kiss me when no one was around, but even that made me nervous. I’d usually push him away.” That’s the right move to make. According to Fox, “There should be absolutely no PDA — you could lose your credibility and it could hurt your career.”

Still, lust can muddle even the most reasonable of minds. Shockingly, a recent UK survey by Maris Interiors showed that 11 percent of office daters consummated their romance in the workplace. In cases like those, the cliché “it’s better to be safe than sorry” has never been more appropriate.

Amelia Stone has written for many national magazines on love, relationships and celebrities.
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