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How to Handle an Office Romance

Tips for Handling Office Relationships

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How to Handle an Office Romance
Copyright Getty Images Henrik Weis
Mark ended up marrying his boss, but only after they had made the decision that she would leave the company and move on. The decision was made, by the way, based purely on professional reasons i.e. who would have the best chance of getting a better job if they left?

Jennifer married someone who worked in a different department. It worked out okay at first, and didn't violate company policy, but when they went through a nasty divorce it became an issue because they had to interact at work and neither was able to keep it professional.

When business and pleasure get intertwined, it can cause trouble on the job. You don't want to have to start a job search because you lost your job because of a romantic relationship - or a relationship gone wrong. Despite the fact that you might be madly in love or hate your ex, you don't want to have getting fired or being forced to resign as part of your employment history.

First of all, be really careful about your personal relationships and keep the boundaries of those relationships strictly professional at work.

Secondly, if you do decide that one - or both - of you need to move on, do it on your terms. Start a job search before you have to and don't give your love life as a reason for leaving when you interview.

How to Handle an Office Romance

Here are more tips on handling an office romance - without it costing you your job - from Peter Handal, the president, CEO and chairman of Dale Carnegie Training:

Check the company's policies. Before launching into an office romance, be clear on the company's policies regarding office relationships. Many companies large and small have hard and fast rules against relationships developing amongst co-workers. If it is against the rules, you have to ask yourself: "Is it worth it?" And, if it is, be discreet and prepare for any consequences.

Maintain decorum and professionalism. It's a good practice to keep your social and business lives separate and that means not letting a romantic relationship affect the quality and efficiency of your work. When it's an office romance, the stakes are even higher. If there's evidence that an office romance is affecting work, one or both of you may be asked to end your romance or, worse yet, find another job.

Avoid dating someone in a higher or lower position. Office politics and hierarchy should be top-of-mind, particularly when it comes to office romances. Choosing an entanglement with a co-worker - especially one at a different seniority level - could dramatically affect your salary or movement within your company. Avoid unwanted scrutiny and drama by avoiding dating those with whom you regularly work.

Save the romance for out of the office. Absolutely no public displays of affection at work. Maintain proper distance and save the romantic acts for locations that are not often visited by co-workers.

Address issues after-hours. Never, have or bring fights or arguments to work. Any personal disagreements should be dealt with outside the office.

Plan for the worst. Agree in the beginning of the relationship how you will handle a potential break up. Avoid, at all costs, a messy break up. It isn't just you and your partner that are involved, it's your entire office and the future of the company's dating policy.

Consider leaving. If the relationship does get serious, one member should consider a new position outside the company.

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