How to Handle a Workplace Romance

These days, when it comes to meeting eligible women, it seems you have two options: online dating, or the workplace. Of course sidling up to that cute girl in the cubicle next to you seems a lot easier than swiping left ad nauseum, but dating your coworker isn’t exactly a walk to the lunchroom. For one thing, you’ll be logging a tonne of hours together, every single day. And what happens if you break up?

To help you out with approaching that hottie in accounting, we talked with Lisa Kay, President and Consultant of Peak Performance Human Resources Corp. about how to handle a workplace romance.

Keep it professional

The headiness of a new crush can be exciting, but you want to avoid getting touchy-feely at work. If embarking upon a workplace romance, “the best practice would be to be discreet,” recommends Kay. “Not everyone needs to know your personal life. I don’t recommend holding hands or kissing in front of your colleagues. It can create discomfort. Your work environment is about achieving a common goal for the company, and you don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that goal.” Leave the playfulness for outside of the office.

Manager and subordinate relationships are big no-no

Whether you’re a boss with a crush on one of your employees, or you’re subordinate employee jonesing for your manager, when it comes to romance, it’s best to stay away. Such a relationship is a huge conflict of interest and gives off a “perception of unfairness, and actual unfairness; that is when one person is treated differently than the rest of the team, which is problematic for a number of reasons,” says Kay, including implications to development plans, and being privy to extra training and advancement more than the other people on the team. On the flip side, if you break up, you could receive unfair treatment. Bottom line: “If you are involved with someone who has a say with your career’s future, then that is pretty significant,” says Kay. “When you are first getting into a relationship, you are not thinking in that direction, but those are real realities that do occur.”

If you’re going to take the plunge, give HR a heads-up

You don’t have to keep your romance a secret nor do you have send out a mass email proclaiming your love, but you should report your relationship to HR. “If you went on date and it is very early on, then you might not want to report it at that point. But if you have gone out on more than one date and you see that the relationship is progressing, then bringing it to the attention of the HR department would be a wise decision,” says Kay. “It’s good to let HR know because there are other factors involved that you might not be thinking of, but that do impact the business.”

If things go south, there will be awkwardness

Remember that if you break up with your office girlfriend, not only will you have to continue seeing them everyday, but also your split could cause difficulties for work-related matters. “If the company is 500 employees and the two people have nothing to do with each other on a daily basis, it might not lead to anything complicated. But in a smaller business, it could create tension,” says Kay. In a worst-case scenario, “Allegations could occur: wrongdoing, sexual harassment, abuse of any kind. That would affect the workplace. The employer would need to investigate that, which would come at a cost,” says Kay. That explains why some offices have pretty strict rules about relationships with fellow employees.

However, if your workplace is okay with your relationship and you two hit it off, your office romance could be a beautiful thing. “If two colleagues get together and the relationship is successful and they are able to work together, it is sort of a love story,” says Kay. “I think then that situation wouldn’t impact people around them or the business, which is the best-case scenario.”

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