For better and worse, relationships are bred in part from convenience. It can manifest itself in many ways, but sometimes—often, even—it means falling for a coworker and exploring that path. That exciting, risky, potentially fruitful, potentially tragic path.
There will always be the temptation, there will always be attraction, and there will always be opportunity in the work environment. Depending on the job, you’re ability to get to know someone can happen quickly and profoundly; and depending on the job, socializing can occur more easily.
Now, as we discuss here the social and emotional guidelines to dating a coworker, it must be clear that you first should know your company’s professional policy. Some discourage it, others forbid it, some may allow it but still may come with some disapproval from colleagues, and others may require some sort of formal disclosure. Then there is the service industry where, well, pretty much anything goes.
So, if you must, if you can’t resist, if you find yourself attracted to someone you regularly spend time with, and they reciprocate (important!), please do be careful. Here’s how.
Analyse Your Feelings
When it comes to being romantically interested in coworkers, you’re going to have to take extra care to make sure these are truer feelings than normal. Not only are the consequences higher, but convenience and familiarity can easily be confused for romance. That is not to say we are all easily duped, but we all are ready to foster what we see as fantasy and the hope when really it’s just part of the job. Ever fancy your hair stylist or barista or cashier? There something about familiarity that breeds attraction—it’s just not always accurate and long lasting.
Imagine the Worst
The whole notion of ‘hope for the best and prepare for the worst’ is rather nihilistic and disheartening; life shouldn’t be like that. When it comes to dating a coworker, however, you will have to force yourself to think of a situation where you’ve dated and now you’re not, but you’re still working together. Can you still do your job? Can your ex-partner? And can those around you deal as well? It all depends on the job, but you when merging the professional and intimate spheres, the future must be considered because should things go south, the spheres can’t be unlinked.
You Only Get One Shot
Well, most likely; nothing is a sure thing. Overall though, should you proceed to date a coworker, especially if it’s someplace smaller or more intimate, you really only get one chance. Navigating some of the difficulties with an office romance is hard enough once, but add to that what would be a break up, and then a courtship of someone new, with an explanation to many involved, and then it just gets messy and likely none too healthy. Of course those in the service industry operate differently and sex often runs wild, but even in that arena there should be far more respect and openness.
So much of relationships are about balance, but it’s more important when the person you see socially is also the person you see the morning after you spent a night seeing the person socially. That is, you will see them both in the personal environment and the professional one, so be mindful. Sure you can be excited to go out Friday night, but if you made those plans on Monday, you’re still seeing this person daily. Early on it’s important to actively schedule plans with other friends and alone, as well as a variety of activities with the person you’re interested in. Not only can the added time together during shifts add up quickly and accelerate the relationship, but a pitfall exists where you easily fall into a habit of leaving work together and accidently moving the relationship forward. New situations are always fun, but the increased exposure and convenience of an impromptu date must be accounted for; you need to be a more active participant.
Successful couples are often those that together are something stronger, better equipped to take on the world than alone. There is of course a personal connection, but allow the fact that you work together to work to your advantage. Unfortunately others will see you are a pair instead of individuals, perhaps careful with what they say or how they act, and motives for professional decisions may be given personal slants by some. Still, embrace the bond and opportunity; to have a partner understand the demands and stresses of a job is not to be underestimated, and to be able to work alongside side someone you’re spending intimate time with will strengthen you in the long run.
For all the trickier aspects of courting and dating a coworker, the potential happiness is paramount. Time is finite, people are busy, and if it’s not one person, for the most part, it’s something else. Gather yet rosebuds while ye may, and should you find someone of note alongside you at work, then go after that person wholeheartedly.
Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. You can follow him on Twitter @MrAnthonyWrites.