The rules of office romances: whatever you do, don’t look down.
Picture the scene: you’re working for a growing company that has some of the best staff in the industry. The organisation could be the market leader within a year, which means you could be climbing the corporate ladder in no time.
You all work longer hours, push yourselves and rely on colleagues more and more. Then that pesky little thing called human nature comes along and threatens to unsteady the ship. Office romances can have disastrous consequences and affect not only you and the other person involved, but just about every section of the workforce, depending on the size of your team. In fact, if you don’t handle it correctly, you could have a Dawn and Tim from The Office scenario on your hands.
Even though there is little an employer can do when two employees decide to get together, there are responsibilities the couple in question should take on board – and they’re not to be shrugged off lightly.
Here are a few tips for budding office lovebirds:
Socialise outside work
It’s easy to understand why office romances start; you probably spend more time with your work colleagues than withanyone else. Furthermore, the recession has seen workers “look inwards” and batten down the hatches. There has been a sense of workers versus the boss as more people have felt under threat.
This huddling together fosters bonding. So, if you feel you have more in common than you should with a certain co-worker who’s caught your eye, perhaps you should try to socialise more with your friends outside of work in order to gain some perspective on the situation.
Don’t look up or down
One scenario even more potentially disastrous than dating a colleague is a relationship that crosses the command chain. Fancy having an affair with your boss? Then get ready for a career brick wall if it goes wrong. Similarly, bosses should be extremely careful about the legal implications of a relationship with someone further down the food chain.
There is a caveat here: statistics suggest that people who start a relationship with their boss are more likely to end up marrying them (as indeed I did, 14 years ago), perhaps because both parties realise just how much is at stake.
Loose lips sink ships
If both employees are at the same level in the company, then the romance should be kept as low-key as possible; an office can be unsettled by rumours and gossip around the water cooler. Also, consider what you put out on social media, especially if you have work colleagues who can read your timeline. If you don’t want to answer awkward questions, don’t give people ammunition.
All workers are equal
There is little an employer can do about a budding relationship. But, as an employee, make sure you treat everyone equally. Just because the new love of your life is sitting five yards away, doesn’t mean they’re always right about work-related decisions. Leave your private life at home, and maintain a sense of professionalism at work.
Not in the kitchen, please
PDAs (also known as public displays of affection) are a no-no in the office. No one wants to walk into the kitchen to find you two squeezed up against the microwave while your lunch goes nuclear. Also, never use emotional language – a relationship is private. If you start an argument or row based on something that has happened outside the office, it can have a catastrophic effect on staff morale and therefore the company’s bottom line.
Over and out
There might come a time when your relationship ends, and you may need to talk to your boss about this. This can be tricky and something which, frankly, your employer probably doesn’t need. Always remember that your boss cannot side with either party if your affair is over; they’ll have to maintain discretion and impartiality.
What both staff and employers need to set out from the very beginning is: we’re all adults and we understand these things happen from time to time, but there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed. Just as you trust your colleagues to drive the company forward, and use their commonsense and initiative to implement procedures and plans, you need to trust anyone you might get involved with romantically to behave themselves at work. And please, don’t do anything dodgy on the photocopier.