Professional Romances - Dangerous Waters
Office romances are rarely planned, more often they come along in surprise and spontaneity to sweep two co-workers from their feet. Part of the reason that they’re so all-engulfing is this unexpectedness. In the heat of it all it’s incredibly exciting, a whirlwind of emotion which threatens to blind two colleagues to everything else around them. But relationships within the office can be very dangerous, both personally and professionally.
Complicated and secretive by their very nature, in-office relationships can risk the careers of everybody involved. Whether it’s the lovebirds themselves for breaching a company contract, or their colleagues for not reporting it to management; proactivity in the beginning and keeping your wits about you can help avoid a train wreck through your cubicles!
Firstly, make sure you’re invested in the relationship for the right reasons. A casual fling might relieve the tedium of the office temporarily, but it’s probably not worth it in the long run. Most workplaces will smile much more kindly upon what they deem to be ‘meaningful relationships’, contract breach or not. Human Resources will likely have developed their own crisp typography on in-office dating, which can range from “keep it discreet and professional” to “clear your desk and be gone by 5pm.”
Either way, one of you will eventually begin to look for a job elsewhere. Even if HR give it their white paper blessing, living and working with your other half is difficult for even the most perfect of couples. Working separately is much simpler in the long run, despite the over-reaction it may seem like at the moment; try to think of it as a positive step and an investment in the long term. If the relationship is successful then separate working lives will be healthier, and if the relationship fails then working together will always be complicated.
Despite what television and film shows us, sneaking off to the supply cupboard is not as easy as it looks. In reality, a clattering mop is going to give you away and it’s not as comfortable in there as it might appear. It might look like fun, but try to resist ruining the Hollywood fantasy of it all by actually indulging in it and risking your jobs.
In the interest of discretion, keep your arguments, tiffs, fall-outs and tantrums to personal hours. Frosty atmospheres spread and you co-workers will quickly lose patience if you change the dynamic of their workplace.
A sympathetic manager is the first person you should open up to before your co-workers start gossiping. The alternative is that rumors reach the boss, which will put him or her (and you) in an uncomfortable situation. An honest attitude is a sign of respect and a proactive approach reflects well on everyone. The key factor is that you are defining the nature of the world around you, and taking control.
In both your professional and personal relationship, communication is vitally important. This is doubly true when you combine the two. Complete honesty does not mean divulging every detail, but if there’s a problem then you must address it head-on. It is also important for both of you to know where you stand. Ambiguity will be a source of confusion, which will in turn lead to misunderstandings.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, your Social Media lifestyle needs to change. Photos and comments are exactly how your professional romance will get rumbled before you feel ready to declare it publically. Constant paranoia may be over the top but it is also safe to assume there are cameras absolutely everywhere; which there are!
Should the two of you break up, it is vitally important to maintain professionalism. If you feel wronged then kept it discreet, and make sure he or she agrees to do the same. In the best case scenario this will never be an issue and the only problem will be how to accommodate so many colleagues and work friends at the wedding reception.
Nikki Armytage is a lifestyle coach based in London, England. In her years of experience dealing with personal and professional clients through The Lifestylist, she has coached many couples through the rocky beginnings of an office relationship and guided them out of the other side!