You can probably come up with a few good reasons to date one of your co-workers. Familiarity. Proximity. Convenience. Perhaps, the thrill of sneaking around behind your boss.
When you reach the end of your short list, you’ll realize quickly enough that office romance does more bad than good. I’ve stumbled upon enough messy break-ups, insubordinate behavior, and unsolicited ‘sex advice’ to know this firsthand.
It’s a tricky, sticky situation that requires too much cautious navigation to work – if it ever does. You don’t need that stress in your life, neither do the people who pay you.
So, if you’re in search of love, the office is not the place to look. And if there’s currently a special someone giving off ~signs~, best dodge that bullet.
Office Relationships are Boring
“Office romances are not just complicated and unprofessional, they are also boring,” says In Office Hours author Lucy Kellaway, calling them “limiting and claustrophobic”.
Come to think of it: who likes taking the office to bed with them? There’s no more, “how was your day at work?” when there’s “oh, that’s right. I was there for that. We work together.”
Part of the excitement is keeping certain parts of your life hidden and deciding how much to reveal. For dating co-workers, your lives are far too intertwined to leave room for any mystery, and it is, as Kellaway puts it, boring.
You’re Biased, Whether You Like It or Not
Here’s when office romance actually crosses a line: when it affects your professional decision. From now on, whatever you do or decide on, your co-workers will view it as something beneficial to you and your significant other. And more often than not, it is.
Regardless of whether this is true or not, it doesn’t matter. You will become That Person, who is biased toward a particular colleague on the basis that you’re sleeping together. Scoff at it all you want, but that’s how the entire office will see it.
And it’s up to you whether you’re willing to put with up such a skewed image. My take? It’s not worth it.
You’ll be that ‘Office Couple’
That Office Couple with the Gross PDA. That Office Couple who acts too aloof to be in love. That Office Couple who are slacking off due to distraction. That Office Couple who are one-upping each other.
Take your pick. The bottom line is, you can never do anything right. People are fat with judgments and in a setting where relationships raise eyebrows to begin with, much of this toxic criticism will be spewed your way.
You can always dust off and say, “It’s none of their business. It’s my relationship. Let them judge.” That’s applicable in an ideal world. But in this world, you’re paid to show up as an employee, not as someone in a commitment. Your dreamy ideologies have no weight here.
Or, maybe in some rare twist of fate, you can be That Office Couple who somehow makes it work, but best of luck to you.
There Will Always be a Wedge Between You
If there’s anything I learned, it’s that workplace relationships never stay between two people. The walls seem to always have ears. Soon enough, your dating life is everyone’s business and the subject of gossip in the ladies’ room.
Staying “chill” about your newfound romance in a professional setting is hard enough as it is. The constant scrutiny won’t help. Often, it sticks a wedge between people, preventing the relationship from growing into the healthy, open companionship that it’s supposed to be.
The Breakup Will Be Twice as Bad
This needs no elaboration. Imagine running into someone you dumped – or worse, someone who dumped you – every day, for God knows until when.
We all seek that radio silence after a breakup. “Out of sight, out of mind” doesn’t apply here. You will have to endure that face, the pain, the tense silences, the whispers by the water cooler, for as long as you have to.
The situation is a breeding ground for worse evils, like poor performance, workplace drama, a potential hostile environment, and constant nonattendance.
Unless one of you quits your job – which drives us back to the main point that office relationships are a bad idea.
Someone could be Toeing the ‘Harassment’ Line
This applies to supervisor-supervisee relationships. Asking a subordinate out for coffee is almost like imposing on them to go out with you. The person feels compelled to say ‘yes’ because you are the boss, after all. Legally and morally speaking, this is a line you don’t want to flirt with.
Dating someone of an unequal position and power is asking for trouble. No matter what the teleseryes tell us, an assistant-boss relationship is not romantic and can go wrong in so many ways. The word “manipulation” comes to mind.
Full disclosure: I do believe that some work couples find a way to avoid the pitfalls and become exemptions to the rule. I work with some of them. I also believe that humans are vulnerable and sometimes, indefensible to attraction. Holing up single people together for hours is bound create magic. And surrendering to it beats the tedium of the daily grind.
If workplace romance blooms, then so be it. Realistically, no legal or ethical forces can police “young love”. If you wish to proceed, always tread carefully, and keep in mind the boundaries and all the possible ugly consequences around the corner.