How to Navigate an Office Romance

flirting at work

We have all had that hot coworker who we can’t help but admire. There is something about them that you feel drawn to. Initially, you chat randomly when you bump into each other on the corridor. Before long, you have exchanged cell phone numbers, you are chatting endlessly and flirting during and after work. Perhaps you have even met up a couple of times after work.

You are involved in an office romance.

There is an unseen but definite line you cross when you start flirting with a co-worker. Once you cross it, it can be very difficult to ‘uncross’.

When you flirt with a co-worker, you not only run the risk of hurting your significant other, you also put your professional credibility on the line. No manager wants to have a guy/girl who can’t keep things professional on their team. The office ‘slut’ is much less likely to get promoted even if they perform their duties to satisfaction.

Office romances are dangerous for your career and are generally not a good idea. But if you choose to take the risk and pursue one, here are a few tips to help you navigate the potentially complex situation.

Flirting at work

The Do’s

1. Communicate Via Personal Cellphones

You don’t have to be an IT guru to know that just about any communication done through internal communication systems in an office, can be accessed by a system administrator. Avoid using office computers and office Wi-Fi to communicate. You will most likely get caught and be forced to face the unpleasant consequences. If you are lucky, you will get away with a simple warning from the IT guy/girl who may or may not keep your secret. If you’re not so lucky, all your kinky love exchanges will be delivered to the boss in soft and hard copy.

Even if your office crush is seated a few meters from you, use only your personal cellphones to communicate. You can be sure the IT department does not have access.

2. Familiarize Yourself with Organizational Rules and Regulations

Yes, remember that employee handbook you promised to read the day you were hired? It is time you fished it out to find out exactly what the company says about office relationships. If you are actively engaging in more than just a little flirting in the office, take time to read. If ‘the smelly stuff’ ever hits the fan, you will need to have the rules and regulations at your fingertips to protect yourself and your job.

Most organizations have strict rules prohibiting romances between members of the same department. The exact regulations and consequences of defiance are dependent on the individual organization. In this situation, information is power.

3. It is Your Little Secret

You are not in high school anymore. You are now in a professional work environment. You wear suits to work and not the jeans and sneakers you wore to school all those years ago. Unfortunately, what you have not outgrown is the random crush on a guy/girl you have to see every day. Now you should have the wisdom to keep your feelings to yourself, especially if the other person doesn’t feel the same way. If they are not the least bit interested in you, it is no crisis. Just move on.

4. Getting Serious? Tell the Boss

A little light flirting here and there need not go beyond the two of you. What if you have been flirting with this one colleague for a while now and things are getting serious? Now it is a good idea to let the boss in on your secret, albeit discretely.

If one or both of you are private people, it won’t be easy to share this news with your boss. There may be consequences of your openness right from the start but it is definitely worth the risk. It is more likely that your boss will respect you both for sharing this information before he/she hears it on the grapevine. You will come out as responsible adults in a mature relationship rather than a pair of infatuated teenagers.

5. Make Sure It Is Only You

Flirting with someone who another colleague is also flirting with is a recipe for trouble. On any other day the office gossip who always seems to have some juicy information about people’s lives would be an irritant. This time they are a valuable resource. Keep them close. Discreetly enquire from the office ‘CIA Agent’ if there are any potential suitors eyeing your new catch.

Be forthright and ask the person you are flirting with if they are doing the same with anyone else, whether at work or outside of the office.

6. Keep Your Game Up

Don’t forget that you are both in this environment for one reason and one reason only… to work. Just because your relationship is going well, it is no excuse to slack off. Focus on your work and go out of your way to ensure your work does not suffer in any way. Prioritize your work. If you need to cancel an after-work date to work late, go ahead. Your partner will respect you more for setting and sticking to your priorities. You will also be able to maintain a healthy relationship with the boss despite your new relationship.

7. Think about How You Will You Relate If the Relationship Ends

In the early weeks of your romance, it may be too exciting to even consider the possibility that it could end just as fast as it begun. I don’t mean to be a prophet of doom on your relationship but it is a fact that office romances rarely develop into long-term relationships. So what starts out as a hot, titillating affair will probably end. When it does…what then?

When you get into this kind of relationship, think about how you will relate with each other if it ends. If you are both open minded enough, have a candid conversation about it.

If you are lucky, you will both maintain a cordial working relationship and life will move on. If you are not so lucky you might find yourself looking for another job, just to get away from all the drama.

The Don’ts

1. Don’t Display Affection Publicly

PDA (Public Display of Affection) is cute when you are hanging out after work or during the weekend. When you are in the office or any other work environment, it is a bad idea. Keep your interaction as formal and professional as possible while in the office. Open display of affection between colleagues in a relationship may make other colleagues uncomfortable. You can bet the boss will not like it.

2. Don’t Leave Evidence On Social Media

Some people like to share their love life with the world through their social media accounts. While there are no hard and fast rules about putting your love life on Facebook, Instagram or any other social networking platform, it is a good idea to avoid it when your new love interest is a colleague from work. It is likely that you both have lots of the same colleagues on your individual social media accounts. You don’t want to appear to rub your relationship in their faces by posting pictures of yourselves after work. While some colleagues may be happy for you, you are bound to have a few who will not be happy for you. If you are both members of the same team at work, other team members may struggle to take you seriously when you’re working together.

3. Don’t Flirt For the Fun of It

This one applies to any kind of flirting, not just in the office. If you are bored at work and just need to pass some time with a little excitement, find something constructive to do. Don’t be one of those workers who gets caught locking lips with a colleague in the supply closet. Only to end the affair when you are tired of them. When you are genuinely interested in the person you are flirting with, you are less likely to hurt them even if it doesn’t work out. Who knows, it may end up being a meaningful long-term relationship.

If you are increasingly finding yourself bored at work, it may be time to ask the boss for more responsibilities.

4. Don’t Lose Focus

A hot, exciting office romance can distract you from your goals. Keep an updated vision board displaying your professional goals in your work space. Have it somewhere where you can’t help but see it often. This will help keep you on track. When your goals are constantly on the forefront of your mind, you will not forget why you are at work in the first place. You cannot forget your short and long-term goals. This will help keep you motivated and maintain high performance.

5. Don’t Give Him/Her All Your Attention

It is easy to find yourself focusing all your attention on the person you are flirting with. Be careful not to lose focus in this way. You cannot afford to keep getting distracted. Maintain your balance. Keep your attention as evenly distributed as it was before you started flirting with your colleague.

6. Don’t Fight at Work

If you have been in a relationship for a while and have never had a disagreement, you have reason to worry. It is normal to get into disagreements. In fact relationship experts say it is healthy to disagree every so often. When you have a fight with your boyfriend/girlfriend who is also a colleague, avoid arguing your issues out at work. Make every effort to compartmentalize your lives. Keep work issues at work and relationship issues out of the work environment.

7. Don’t Drop Your Office Buddies

Even when things are going great with your office crush, don’t neglect your friends. Maintain your old habits. Continue having your midday meal with your lunch buddies. Make sure you are not suddenly missing in action when your friends from the office go out for after-work drinks. In the event that your relationship does not work out, they will feel used when you suddenly want to start hanging out with them again.

If there are one or two colleagues you trust, let them in on your secret. They may end up being your eyes and ears on the ground in case of anything.

8. Don’t Flirt With a Married Man/Woman

Some people are of the opinion that it is alright to flirt with a married man/woman, as long as it doesn’t get serious. Getting involved with a married colleague will definitely land you in trouble when their partner finds out. You don’t want to find yourself in an embarrassing love triangle which could potentially explode in the office, in full view of all your other colleagues.

9. Don’t Get Caught With Your Pants Down

It’s the early days of the relationship. Neither of you is particularly busy in the office so you give in to the temptation to sneak off for a quickie in the bathroom. The restrictions of the workplace make this forbidden fruit seem even sweeter. Needless to say, it is a bad idea. You may not get caught the first or second time, but you will get caught. Do you really want to be scratching your head trying to figure out how to explain your behavior to your boss?

10. The Boss Is Forbidden Territory

By now you have gathered that office romances are not the ideal. If you can avoid getting into one, you probably should. Nevertheless, if you feel strongly about a colleague and want to explore the possibilities, it is not forbidden. But it is always best between colleagues whose positions are horizontally placed on the organizational structure. Flirting with the boss is a bad idea. Flirting with a subordinate… also a bad idea. It may undermine your authority and interfere with overall performance. If you hold a senior position at an organization, you don’t want to find yourself under the gossipers’ limelight.

Our Final Say

Office romances can be extremely exciting. If the relationship is a secret, as is often the case, the secrecy makes it all the more thrilling. Although they are generally not associated with long-term committed relationships, some do develop into that. Many happy, life-long marriages begun as an office romance. Whether you are in an office romance or are contemplating getting into one, caution is the number one rule. Analyze the work environment and take every necessary precaution to avoid regretting the relationship.

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