We‘ve all heard the old cautionary adage: Don’t dip your pen in the company ink. There are many reasons we’re told to steer clear of company canoodling. It can generate gossip, you may lose credibility, or even compromise your job. But, studies show that more happily married people actually met in the workplace than those who were introduced by friends. It’s even what brought together many of our favorite sweethearts, like Bill & Melinda Gates and our own President and First Lady.
But every long-term relationship had to start somewhere… and that’s where the problem lies.
Here are the top things to remember on how to hook up at work without getting fired, whether it’s for a fling or a ring.
Talk to HR Before You Talk to HER
So, you’ve been eyeing that cutie in Accounting for the past couple weeks and thinking of making a move. Before you do ANYTHING make sure you fully understand your company policy. Most employee handbooks should say something about intercompany mingling, but if you have any questions ask your HR manager. You can even do a gut check and take a look at your company culture.
Oftentimes, creative industries like Advertising and Entertainment/Media are more lax regarding office hook-ups, while more buttoned-up corporate environments have stricter policies. Generally speaking, relationships aren’t completely forbidden, but there is an understood Don’t ask, Don’t tell policy (meaning keep all personal affairs outside the office walls.) So, play it safe and know the ropes before you climb ‘em.
Take It Outside
While a little playful flirting at the company holiday party or happy hour can be harmless fun, if you want to take things a step further, make sure to do it anywhere BUT your office or work sponsored event. When people are outside of work, they tend to be more relaxed and less guarded. Plus your crush is bound to view you in a friendlier and hopefully more sexual way. To get the ball rolling keep it easy and casual. Maybe send a text or email to their personal accounts inviting them to a movie or an upcoming party at your apartment. Just remember the difference between the bar and the boardroom.
Keep It Lateral Before Going Horizontal
Sure, sometimes a CEO and his secretary will fall madly in love and go on to enjoy a lifetime of marital bliss. But generally speaking, we aren’t living in Mad Men times. While it may be a popular fantasy, messing around with one’s superior or subordinate, it often leads to nothing but problems. Consider how your romance could potentially affect both your performances and possibly lead to favoritism or resentment. Ultimately, someone gets hurt– and it’s more than feelings that are at stake. When making your moves, try and keep them lateral.
Exhibitionists Need Not Apply
Maybe the thought of sneaking around with your sweetie in an elevator, coatroom, or boardroom is tantalizing–especially if you have a penchant for almost getting caught in the act. But, all it takes is one unlocked door or unsuspected surveillance camera, and suddenly your private life is smeared all over the front page of the company newsletter. Same goes for PDA. Even if your partnership is public, your physical relationship doesn’t have to be. Not only does it make others feel uncomfortable, it’s downright unprofessional. Keep it in your dress pants, and save it for the bedroom.
Loose Lips Sink Careers
Unfortunately, gossip is a very real and potentially destructive thing. We all love to gossip, and rumors and the workplace go together like peanut butter and chocolate. If your honey is friends with the company loudmouth, she may want to rethink that friendship for the sake of both of your reputations, or else be sure to stay tight lipped. Remember that this isn’t a normal relationship, so you have to play by slightly different rules. Does the world really need to know personal details about your romantic life anyways? Be smart and keep it to yourself.
Ask Yourself This ONE Necessary Question
The most important thing to ask yourself before starting a workplace romance is, “If this doesn’t work out, could it negatively impact my professional future?” Right now imagine all your ex-lovers, especially the ones you left on bad terms. Now imagine having to see them every single of day of your life and being forced to work together on projects even though it’s completely awkward. You may just hate each other’s guts. Ask yourself early on if this person is mature enough to handle that sort of risk and whether you even like them enough to go through with it. Be truly honest with yourself if you are as well. Relationships are tough. Do yourself a favor and take extra good care of yourself as well as your business.
Photo Courtesy of Infosys