How to Handle Dating In The Workplace
Office dating could happen out of nowhere, after all, we spend most part of our day at work with the same group of people. It is only natural that this daily interaction may develop into something, but dating a coworker can be risky.
Mixing your relationship life with your professional can cause undesired drama in the workplace when not properly handled. In some climes, dating a colleague is totally frowned at. For instance, when one in the couple exerts career influence over the other, there is a tendency for this influence to be misused in the workplace.
Examples abound of many couples whose relationship started out as an office romance; hence it will not be fair to suggest that having a crush on a coworker should be avoided at all costs. However, you and your potential partner should give it a serious thought before going into a relationship as coworkers. Below are some tips on handling workplace dating.
Understand your company’s policy.
Most firms prohibit an employee from dating coworkers, partners, or even clients. Some will require specific disclosure, so do your investigation before starting a relationship. The rules are sometimes clearly stated, while sometimes you will have to go to the Human Resource unit for more information on the firm’s rules regarding workplace dating. In a situation where dating is not captured in the Human Resource policy, try to get a feel of the organization’s cultural views on workplace relationships. You can do this by making an effort to understand the backgrounds, beliefs, and attitudes of your coworkers.
Firms will always want to ensure organizational secrecy, avoid conflicts of interest, and prevent inappropriate collusion. So if you are in the managerial cadre, think twice before dating a junior coworker, or putting yourself in a situation of real or perceived power imbalance. Any good thing that deservedly comes in your partner’s way can be misconstrued, hence a likelihood of workplace disharmony.
Think through the risk
There is a chance that the relationship may not work out, resulting in hard feelings on both sides that can cause a lot of bad blood between you two. Workplace dating can also create a potential conflict of interest that can be hard to resolve. For instance, if you are dating a teammate, will you now put the team’s or the individual’s interest first? There is also a reputational risk that can bring your professionalism into question; especially if your colleagues do not see your motives for entering the relationship as positive.
Be sure of your intentions
If after being aware of the risks you still want to go forward with workplace dating, try and evaluate your intentions. The office space reaction will reflect what everyone thinks your motives are. Seeking a relationship to serve your own interest, whether it is to get a promotion or for fun, will make your colleagues think less favorably of you. But they will be positive if they feel that you are falling in love and genuinely care about each other.
Therefore, before dating a colleague, check your motives and consider how others, especially your coworkers will perceive it. A well-intended office relationship also helps guard against hurt feelings and misunderstandings.
Do not make it a secret
Making your relationship known from the onset might be very difficult, especially if you are not sure where the relationship will go. Regardless, try and be open about it with your coworkers and boss. Letting people know will no doubt reduce the “awkwardness” and increase the likelihood of a positive perception of the relationship.
Secrets have a natural way of coming out, and when they do in this situation, it erodes trust. So find a simple way of informing your colleagues about it without giving many details. Your boss will equally be interested in knowing, to be able to make an informed decision when staffing you both; they may prefer you not be on the same team or even have any formal contact.
While making your relationship open to colleagues and superiors can be a good thing, let their influence over it be minimal. Letting others assert control on how you date can natively affect the relationship, so be clear on where their influence stops.
Similarly, try and avoid public display of affection, by remaining professional while at work. You need to create self-awareness about how to deal with the office risks of in-house romantic relationships. You do not want to let work-related tensions spill into your relationship. Consider setting rules with your partner about how and when you will talk about work and your relationship with one another.
Be ready for side-talks
As human beings, we connect and interact by sharing stories and experiences. The more exciting or shocking a story is, the more engaging and interesting it becomes. People naturally find gist about relationships or romance alluring, so your relationship that is within the public glare will definitely be open to gossip. So, even if you religiously follow the suggestions above, some coworkers people may be quick to make assumptions and see favoritism or nepotism that is not just there.
Be conscious of any potentially sensitive actions or decisions that you take, such as any pay rises or promotions that you approve or recommend, and be sensitive in mentioning any potential conflict of interest. This will provide evidence should there ever be the need to counter any claim of unfair treatment. Once you remain professional and fair in your official functions, people will be less likely to concern themselves with your relationship.
If the relationship ends
Not all relationships will work out, and if it eventually ends, be open about it without mincing words. Keep everyone updated on the fact that you are no longer together and remain professional in your official duties.
Everyone who has ever been in a relationship has something less complimentary to say about an ex. Try and be civil in your discussions on the failed relationship and hope that the other person will do the same. If it feels awkward working alongside the person, you may need to consider changing your job or at least transferring to another unit. Irrespective of how the relationship turns out do not let it destroy your professional reputation.