Office Romance: When Does It Make Sense to Mix Business With Pleasure?

Office Romance (<i>cont'd</i>)

Don't Date the Boss

Not all office romances are created equal. According to Lisa Mainiero, author of Office Romance: Love, Power and Sex in the Workplace (Rawson Associates, 1989), the best office-dating scenario is when peers from different departments date. Her research shows that co-workers generally accept peer relationships within their departments. However, she adds that it's important to remember that, down the road, the two of you may be competing for promotions and raises. You also may have to worry about the boss's approval.

Fifty-five percent of employers and employees polled by think it's unacceptable for a manager to date a subordinate. Even if a boss-subordinate relationship is not forbidden, think of the ramifications:

  • Your colleagues may turn on you. There's always a double standard at play. You may be a competent worker, but as soon as you start dating the boss, the perception will be that your relationship is fueling your career. This is especially true if you're receiving promotions or given a corner office or other perks that may appear to be the result of favoritism.
  • You could jeopardize your career. If you dump your boss, think how your career could be affected. Your boss could find endless ways to make your workday miserable, or even jeopardize your success in the company.

If you're still unsure about the "Don't date your boss" rule, Advice Sister Alison Blackman Dunham, co-author of Recruiting Love: Using Business Skills You Have to Find the Love You Want (Cyclone Books, 1998), says you need to determine if you'd be willing to leave your job if the situation became too uncomfortable after a breakup. On the other hand, says Lisa Mainiero, if you can't live without each other, get your reporting structure changed.

Five Ways to Mix Work and Romance

  1. Date someone you already have a relationship with. Johnston says that you'll have some form of trust if you have a working relationship before you date. If you must date the cute guy in another department, take things slow until you determine whether you both have the emotional maturity to handle a workplace relationship.
  2. Be honest. Powers says that when dating at work you need to have similar expectations about where the relationship is going and communicate them to one another from the start. If one party is looking at having a long-term relationship, and the other one is looking for a fling, that relationship will have problems.
  3. Set boundaries. If you become involved with someone at work, discuss how you'll handle office situations. Will you tell anyone? Will you discuss personal matters at work or work matters on a date? It may seem unromantic, but it'll help keep your professional life and love life on track.
  4. Maintain relationships outside of work. Enjoy activities away from the office. If your job goes sour or your relationship falls through, you'll be glad to have other support mechanisms and sources of satisfaction in your life.
  5. Break up gently. Let's face it, most dating relationships end. Discuss how you will handle a breakup from the beginning, advises Powers. Show some consideration. It's easier if you're the one who initiates the breakup. And, if you're going to break up, do it on Friday, don't wait until Monday.

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