What do people have against office romance? Is it wrong to fall
in love? There is nothing wrong with wanting to love and be
loved. Romantic relationships, however, can consume your
time and energy. If you are hoping to find your life partner in
your workplace, here are some complications you can probably
If you start dating
a colleague, you will need to decide if you are going to do this
openly or if you are going to try to keep it private. If you let
it be known that you are involved with a colleague, people will
have different reactions. Some people will be for you and wish
you happiness. Some will be jealous and will regard your
involvement professionally inappropriate. If you try to keep your
involvement private, this is almost the same as trying to keep a
secret from people with whom you have daily contact.
Secret-keeping is usually not a healthy behavior. People will
eventually find out, and they could resent you for not having
What if you break
up with your romance partner? How will you feel about continuing
to work every day with someone who is now your ex? How will your
ex react? Depending on the personality of your ex, breaking up
could leave you open to harassment. What if your partner breaks
up with you? Will you become emotionally upset every time your ex
walks by you? What if your ex starts dating someone else in the
office? Could you cope with this, especially if you still carry
How will you feel
when your colleagues discover that your romantic involvement was
a mistake? Social workers are only human, but it could be
professionally embarrassing to fail in the realm of relationships.
Some of your colleagues could get a good laugh at your expense.
Some might take sides and will either feel sorry for you or blame
What if you get
involved in something that is beyond your ability to manage?
Or something that turns out to be emotionally or physically
damaging to you? To whom will you turn for help? You might have
difficulty proving that you were not a voluntary participant.
Your colleagues might view you as a consenting adult who had full
knowledge of the relationship dynamics. If your partner turns
out to be a manipulator, you are likely the one who will look bad.
You could even end up having to quit your job in order to regain
balance in your life.
If you are a
supervisor, many workplaces would consider it unethical for you
to become romantically involved with a subordinate. Supervisors
can save themselves and everyone a lot of heartache by not dating
subordinates. If you are an employee and your supervisor asks
you out, be careful. This is a delicate matter. Perhaps the
best thing to do is to find a tactful way to say
no at the very beginning. If you do start dating your supervisor,
depending on how the relationship evolves, you could be subjected
to extremes of favoritism or harassment. Supervisors are in
positions of power and this could work for you or against you.
Let's look at some
of the practical considerations of office romance. Are you doing
your job? Or is your romantic interest interfering with your
ability to complete your work? Do you behave professionally? Do
you clog up the office telephone lines with private conversations?
Do you have quarrels with your partner? Do you triangulate others
into your relationship? Do you take extended lunch hours? Do you
expect others to cover for you?
It is advisable to
know whether your workplace has any policy regarding office
romance. There seems to be less restriction against this
nowadays. People are going to interact with one another and it is
not necessarily an employer's right to police employees' personal
relationships. Some employers are using love contracts to
try to manage any workplace irregularities that might result from
office romance and to protect themselves from sexual harassment
lawsuits. Workplaces need to have, at least, a policy on
sexual harassment. It would also be helpful to have a policy
regarding the maintenance of professional standards when employees
are romantically involved with others in the same agency.
If you are a
supervisor and your workplace has no such policy, it might be
wise to confront romances on an individual basis. In other words,
do not pretend that you do not see what is going on. You can
talk, casually and in a spirit of goodwill, to the employees
involved. This should help reduce any workplace tension. And,
in cases where there is potential for inappropriate behavior, it
lets the two employees know that they are not invisible.
Since we spend so
much of our lives on the job, it is entirely possible that true
love awaits in the office. There are also many other places
where two people can find each other. If your choices for a mate
exist only in the workplace, then maybe you need to expand your
social life in other ways. The office will always be there
while you could be missing other opportunities. By looking
elsewhere you have a better chance of keeping your private life
private, and sharing with your colleagues only what you want them
to know about you.
Love does not
discriminate. Love can transcend barriers of race, culture, age,
and sometimes the office walls. Only you can decide whether or
not you can manage the external variables.
(Written 10/18/04: bibliography available.)
Until we meet