The Pitfalls of an Office Romance

When people spend the greater part of the working day together, they are bound to find someone with whom they have some common interests. This often leads to sharing a few social moments and if they hit off, things are ripe for a relationship. But before you act further upon your crush on a co-worker, consider the following dangers of an office romance.

Leaves a bitter taste

The worst thing about an office romance that while they are easy to get into, they are equally hard to get out of. When a workplace relationship goes kaput, both partners are faced with a difficult situation. While professional ethics demand that you continue to respect your co-worker and work as a team, the conflict in your personal relationship makes it exceedingly impossible to be around your ex, much less deliver your best professionally. Despite your attempts at maintaining a professional relationship with your ex, if you find that he or she continues to rake up personal issues at the workplace. Even if both you and your ex are trying hard to act professional, it may be difficult to entirely avoid touchy matters. If you are preparing a presentation for a client based in Hawaii, one of you may start reminiscing about what a great time you had at its sunny beaches and before you know you are caught up in the cycle of accusations and counter-accusations about who was responsible for the breakup.

It might be against company policy

If your company has a written policy against employee dating, you may be fired from your job if your office romance comes to light. Many companies don’t place a general bar against dating between employees but only in certain circumstances like those involving a boss and a subordinate. More typical are companies that simply discourage workplace romance and for good reason too – in an office romance, it is only a matter of time before personal issues quickly become workplace issues leading to unsatisfactory job performance. This is one of the main reasons employers frown on this practice in the first place.

Complexities in a relationship

When you and your partner are working in the same office, there might be a situation where you are competing directly for jobs or assignments or at least constantly contrasting your career progress with that of your partner’s. Alternately you could keep feeling like you aren’t moving fast enough or working hard enough as compared to your partner. Such a context is hardly conducive for a harmonious relationship.

Even when there is no direct competition or comparison, having a partner in your workplace can have the negative effect of making you less secure in almost every situation. For instance if he/she says something positive about your work, you may suspect it is just because he/she is dating you - “You just like this piece because you’re my boyfriend.” On the other hand if your partner is critical of your work, you may assume because he was unhappy about last night. Even if there are no such issues, working in the same place can suddenly leave partners with an uncertain future about their relationship. Suppose the opportunity came along that required one of you to relocate with the company for a promotion. A decision would have to be made that could have you choosing between the promotion and your office romance.

Bad for your career

No matter how hard you strive to keep your personal and professional lives apart, having an office romance could lead to people lose focus on your professional abilities. If you get a raise or promotion, it will be assumed by others that it was because you are dating so-and-so. Again if you become involved with someone in your department, and you receive a promotion, you will end up in a relationship with your subordinate. This is not only likely to be against company policy but may even open up the possibility of blackmail or leave you open to the charge that you are unduly favoring your partner when it comes to conducting reviews and maintaining discipline. Most importantly, if your relationship ends badly, you never know if your ex will complain to HR that you were making unwanted advances - a harassment suit, however unjust, is one thing which is sure to wreck your career.

Even if you and your partner are on the best of terms, being a lovey-dovey couple carries its own risks. The more private time you spend together during office hours, the more and more you'll begin to alienate yourself from your other colleagues. The worst thing you can do is distance yourself from your immediate associates, especially those you've developed personal relationships with. Being the office outsider is extremely risky, especially in times of downsizing and other such corporate shakedowns; in order to find what is going on in the corridors of power, you may have to work overtime to regain the trust and friendship of those in the know.

Involving other co-workers

Despite your best efforts to keep your personal life shielded from your colleagues, your romantic involvement is bound to impact them directly. If you sit together in the company cafeteria, it is only natural for others to feel they should give you privacy. From here it is only a step to exclude you from certain conversations, because they don't know what you'll relay to your new love. Consciously or subconsciously, your relationship may influence decisions that go well beyond a lunchroom. Your romance may color everyone's judgment with regard to promotions, projects, team building and responsibilities the relationship could make it more difficult for your department -- and depending on your position, your company -- to operate effectively.

In the event of a breakup, you may be tempted to share your pain with the other colleagues. And if it has been a particularly messy breakup, you may even be inclined to reveal your side of the story while your ex reveals his/hers. It is only a matter of time before past indiscretions are dug up, co-workers are being bad-mouthed and the whole atmosphere of the workplace a cauldron of rumors and gossip. Some of your co-workers may feel pressured to take sides with you or your ex and others may feel embarrassed about your situation and begin to avoid you.

One of the worst consequences of an office romance gone sour is that either of you may start flirting at your workplace. Granted that you and your ex have agreed to move on, but this does not mean that you or your ex start flirting with the new intern at the first chance you get. This will only go to show that you are actually yet to get over your breakup since you are still looking for ways to make him or her jealous. Moreover it may lower you in the esteem of the rest of your colleagues who will see you as just another sex maniac whose mind is never on the job.