What About Office Romances?

by Suzanne Lucas from Evil HR Lady

If you were an alien whose only ideas of earth were gleaned through television programs, you'd assume that the workplace is populated by two types of people: the hilarious and the promiscuous. (And sometimes, those people are one and the same.) Also, you'd assume that no one ever does any actual work.

Those of us who actually have had jobs, know that most people only think they are funny and office romance is fraught with problems that aren't neatly wrapped up in 30 minutes. But sometimes, even in the real world, sparks can fly at the office. What are the rules of workplace romance?

Check your handbook. I know, it's not romantic. But, some companies have policies against people dating coworkers. Some have policies that only prohibit relationships between managers and subordinates. If there is no policy, it's technically up to you, but consider the following points below anyway.

It's not okay to be pushy. Of course you'd never sexually harass someone. Only sleazy people do that. But did you know that the law rests not on precisely what you do but on what the other person feels? The standard is that it is “unwanted” sexual advances that are against the law. Which begs the question, how can you find out if your advance is wanted or unwanted until you make it? The best way to make an advance (from a purely HR perspective) is to ask your target out on a date directly, nicely and once. If he or she says no, that's it. It's finished. Yes, I know the great romances always begin with a rejection and  a suitor who won't give up. That doesn't work in the current workforce.

Do not date your boss or your direct report. Period. Even if your company doesn't expressly forbid this type of relationship, you should make it your personal rule. These types of relationships wreak havoc on the department. The other people in the department will not be pleased. Even if you go to great lengths to be fair, they will notice favoritism in everything the boss does, and special privileges in everything the direct report does. Resentment and bitterness will run rampant.

Keep it strictly professional. If you are dating a coworker, keep your relationship professional at work. Don't stop by your beloved's cube and make googly eyes at each other. Don't kiss when you run into each  other in the hallway. No hand holding under the lunch table. Do not use your company email, cell phones or IM system to send each other love notes. Your IT department and your boss can read all of these anyway, even if they don't normally. Additionally, we all know that romance doesn't always run smoothly. So if you can't work professionally with your beloved when you're in the middle of a big snit, you can't handle the office romance.

Don't limit your social life to your work life. If you've relocated for a position, it may seem the only people you know are people from the office. Join a club, go to church, take your dog to a park, or do something else to meet other people. Romance outside the office is easier to handle and less likely to land you in trouble with your HR department. It's not that you can't find true love at work, it's just that it's easier when you find it outside the office.

This article is sponsored by Western Governors University, a nonprofit, accredited, online university. To find out more about WGU’s online degree programs, please visit www.wgu.edu/wisecareers

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