Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pros & Cons of Dating a Coworker

In the two months that I've been with my new company, I have gotten to know one of my colleagues who happens to be a single guy around my age. Without going into details, there is a reasonable chance that we may decide to get to know one another on a more personal level in the near future.

We would be incredibly discreet about this development, when and if it were to take place. He has dated somebody at the company before; she's no longer with the firm, but her position necessitated a public disclosure of their relationship (which apparently got very serious before it ended). I am a brand new employee just starting to build a new reputation and image at this company. So basically neither one of us has much to gain from openly dating somebody at work right now.

Anyway, this post is meant to be a more general exploration of the pros and cons of dating somebody from the office. Of course a lot of it depends on how closely you work together - dating your boss is much riskier and more serious than dating somebody in another department or at another location. But here are some ideas off the top of my head:

  • An exciting distraction from standard office tasks and routine.

  • The opportunity to get to get to know someone outside of a traditional dating setting (i.e. without the pressure of formal dates).

  • Observing a person's behavior and reputation at work - a place where most of us spend at least half of our waking hours and which represents a large part of our identity, yet which usually remains unknown to significant others.

  • Becoming friends first (unless of course you suddenly connect physically after, say, a drunken office Christmas party)

  • The excitement of sharing a secret (assuming at least at some point that you keep the relationship a secret).

  • Lack of privacy/autonomy due to spending too much time together (especially if you work closely and/or you live together).

  • Awkwardness when having to interact professionally at work in the wake of a breakup or fight.

  • Having to navigate office gossip and politics, which could turn negative.

  • The risk of ostracizing other colleagues or being excluded by colleagues.

  • Human Resources issues; having to transfer departments or turn down promotions in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

  • In a serious relationship, the possibility of facing mutual layoffs or other negative economic circumstances at the same time may need to be considered (if, say, both your incomes are based heavily on one industry or trend).

Meeting somebody at work isn't intrinsically good or bad. People spend more than half their waking hours at work, they typically look their best at work, and so connections are bound to form. Sometimes they may turn romantic, and I'm sure we all know people who are happily together who initially met at work.

Some important things to remember are to make sure that your actions remain entirely within company policy, that you don't make coworkers uncomfortable in any way, that you aren't dating or attempting to date anybody with a spouse or partner, and that the other person doesn't have a past or reputation that may damage your image in the workplace.

Personally I plan to take things VERY slowly with this coworker. I want to get to know him well and feel out his reputation before we start a real dating relationship, and I also want to make sure that I'm really interested before taking on the risks of dating a colleague. It's not the time or place to casually date somebody just because we're both single at attracted to one another. Even if we move forward, I anticipate that we'd keep things a secret for as long as possible.

Have you ever dated somebody at work? If so, did you ever make the relationship public?

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