Dating your Colleague: Relationships in the Workplace

Picture this. You meet someone that checks all your boxes – they’re intelligent, sincere, can carry a conversation and most importantly, makes you laugh. The problem? They’re your boss. When it comes to maintaining professionalism in the workplace, most companies have some form of dating policy in the office. Be it in the form of advice from the management or a signed contract, workplace relationships are generally frowned upon because we don’t want to place ourselves and our co-workers in uncomfortable situations. Being the target of workplace gossip, accusations of favoritism or a bitter squabble that creates tension and affects work productivity are a few of the potential pitfalls of an office romance. However, it’s great to have someone you love understand and support you when you’re feeling stressed or succeed and celebrate with you when you do. 

So when your management tells you not to date your co-workers, are they words to live by? Or merely a guidelines against to prevent against surmountable obstacles? This February, we will provide you with the rundown on office relationships, and how to navigate them. 

The Case AGAINST
A workplace relationship gone sour is disruptive and can affect work performance. Such tension doesn’t just affect the two parties involved. The unhappiness can trickle down to other members of the team who feel uncomfortable, whose work is influenced by poor communication or are forced to take sides in an otherwise personal conflict. At worst, it can lead to the loss of a valuable member of the team if one of them chooses to resign after a bad break up. As an employer responsible for productivity and work synergy, you’d rather be safe than sorry. 

The Case FOR
Sure, any partner can be supportive if you’re going through a hard time at work. However, if your partner IS your colleague, he or she could be a valuable pillar of strength that not only goes through the same struggles as you, but can work with you closely to overcome them. Being in a relationship means communicating, and such communication skills can be applied to the workplace as well. 

While you continue to remain skeptical about making your feelings known, there are plenty of well-known faces who have and continue to show that working with your partner makes one great team. Here’s a short list of some power couples who made it work:

  1. Bill and Melinda Gates
  2. Barack and Michelle Obama
  3. Wendy Williams and Kevin Hunter Sr. 

It seems that when it comes to workplace romances, such an arrangement could either be the start of a nightmare, or the birth of a power couple. With all that in mind, let’s breakdown some problems you may face when it comes to workplace romance and how you can tackle them professionally without jeopardising office dynamic or putting your position at risk. 

Getting into the relationship
Choosing to get into the relationship presents the first challenge of office romance. It is important to start off on the right foot and send ground rules with the person you’re dating. A good rule could be to not discuss relationship matters at the workplace, and to keep work talk to office hours. For instance, dating a junior in the workplace could lead to real or perceived power imbalances. It’s important that both parties distinguish your relationship power dynamic from your workplace power dynamics. Drawing clear boundaries and making rules upfront helps to squash miscommunication, and ensures you don’t air your dirty laundry at the office. 

Sensitivity and empathy towards how your colleagues perceive you would go a long way towards mitigating negative sentiment and keeping them supportive of your relationship. If you and your partner agree to be open about the relationship, be sure to set rules for yourself so you are both on the same page about how to approach workplace interactions. Even if your romance is met initially met with support, inside-jokes, public displays of affection and private conversations during office hours can rub others the wrong way. 

Gossip is unavoidable. However, if you continue to remain fair and professional in your workplace behaviour and decision-making, others are unlikely to concern themselves with your relationship for long!

The workplace is against office romance
Dating policies are absolutely necessary. Especially for smaller companies where you have to work closely with each and every colleague, synergy between colleagues can drastically affect work performance. If you office has strict guidelines against it, sometimes sticking to the rules is the best course of action. Otherwise, we advise transparency and open communication with HR and your colleagues. While hiding your relationship from your co-workers may seem the best course of action to avoid being the subject of water cooler gossip, this can induce unnecessary stress or invite further scrutiny should you fail to disguise your intimacy. HR as a mediating party can provide great advice on how to respect your date while maintaining professional respect as a colleague. quell speculation of potential favouritism by showing that you have nothing to hide. 

Arguments/Break ups
So you screwed things up. Relationships can get ugly and that’s perfectly normal. This is where setting boundaries and sticking to a set of rules can come in handy. Dragging things out will only cause further bitterness and escalate tensions in the workplace. Although emotions can run high, it is key to discuss such personal matters outside office hours. While it may be awkward for a little while, continue to operate professionally after a clean break and things will return to normal in no time.

After all, love is love, and sometimes we can’t help who we are attracted to. While it may blur judgement or cause resentment and bitterness, it can also be a great source of personal development and maturity as we strive to be the best for the ones we love. Learning how to navigate this risky romance ensures you can reap the benefits and get the best of both worlds. With the resolution to commit time and effort toward nurturing your relationship, you and your partner can become a great team who can support, encourage and stand by each other through all the highs and lows.