Only 37% of employees intentionally avoid office romance, according to the most recent annual survey by the job site Vault.com. The same study found that more than 72% of respondents over the age of 50 had dated someone at work.
The longer you’re collecting a paycheck, the more likely you are to face the decision whether to pursue a workplace crush or nip it in the bud. The path you choose could have important consequences for your personal life and career.
What will you do when you’re attracted to someone in the next cubicle or even your boss? Read this before you make up your mind.
- Check the rules. What does your employee handbook say about office romances? Some companies ban any relationships while others may require both participants to disclose their status.
- Focus on work. You may have trouble thinking about anything besides your new love interest, but it’s important to be professional at work. Keep up with your responsibilities. You may like knowing that some studies suggest that dating a coworker can make you happier and more productive.
- Respect your colleagues. Be considerate of those around you. Avoid public displays of affection or playing favorites.
- Monitor gossip. Doing your work and treating your coworkers well is a first step towards discouraging gossip. It also helps if you resist the urge to talk about your crush on social media or in the break room.
- Maintain boundaries. You may want to make life easier for each other but going overboard can backfire. Continue doing your own job so no one will feel like they’re being taken advantage of.
- Exit gracefully. It may be unpleasant, but you need to think about what will happen if and when you and your crush break up. What can you do to ensure that you’ll be able to work together effectively?
- Minimize contact. If you’re trying to overcome your attraction, work at spending less time together as much as your job allows. Stay away from situations where you would be alone with each other.
- Talk it over. It may help to get an objective point of view. Discuss your feelings with someone you trust or speak with a professional counselor.
- Distract yourself. Your crush will fade more quickly if you starve it for attention. Find an interesting hobby or take a vacation. Volunteer with a local nonprofit or join a Meetup group.
- Equalize power. Be especially cautious about becoming entangled with a supervisor or anyone who outranks you at your company. The same goes for if you’re the higher-ranking partner. You may harm your career or even find yourself in the middle of a lawsuit.
- Be single. Are you married or living with a significant other? Putting aside any moral judgements, the dangers to your career are unlikely to be worth the risk. Marriage counseling would be a safer solution for dealing with troubles at home.
- Accept your feelings. At the same time, there’s a difference between having a crush on someone and acting on it. Even President Jimmy Carter said he lusted in his heart. You have no reason to be ashamed of your feelings, as long as you handle them wisely.
- Seek balance. Your crush could be a valuable teaching moment. Wanting a relationship with someone you consider inappropriate could be a sign that something is missing in your life. You may need to devote more time and energy to activities outside the office.
Workplace romances can have major advantages and disadvantages. You could become more engaged and productive or you could wind up looking for a new job. Weigh the consequences rather than letting your emotions sweep you away.