While the axiom, “Don’t mix business with pleasure,” is one that most everyone knows, it isn’t necessarily a rule all people follow. For some, the promise of a relationship with someone who shares similar values on a comparable career path is enticing, making the office into not just a place of business, but also the home of a budding romance. If you think a collegial relationship you have might be morphing into a more amorous one, consider the ethical implications of letting this happen.
When two daters occupy the same work space, the ramifications for their love affair failing are substantially more significant. Because these two people must be around each other, even if the relationship fails to flourish, they can’t simply retire to their separate corners the way many couples do post break-up. This can lead to nasty office confrontations or office gossip as coworkers take sides in the romance-fueled feud between the two. Inner-office romances can also lead to questions regarding whether promotions were appropriate or rewards were deserved.
Think Before You Act
An inner-office romance is not an arrangement you want to fall into on a whim. If you find yourself falling for someone in the workplace, it may be best to resist. Read your employee handbook for any specific regulations your business has forbidding inner-office dating; some companies have rules regarding these matters of the heart. If you find that nothing forbids your romance and you still feel inexplicably drawn to the person two cubicles down, you may pursue the relationship, though you should do so with caution.
If you choose to give in to Cupid’s arrows and engage in some inner-office dating, it is of paramount importance that you maintain discretion. Never engage in displays of affection in the office, even if you think you are behind closed doors. Don’t talk about your relationship with others at work; doing so unnecessarily involves additional players in your love drama, making it even messier should it not turn out as rosy as you hope.
Dating Between Ranks
While dating among coworkers on the same rung of the business ladder might be acceptable, relationships between a supervisor and a subordinate remain inappropriate. This type of relationship is unacceptable because people lower on the business food chain might receive preferential treatment as a result of this romantic relationship or be perceived to receive this treatment from others aware of the relationship. It might be in your best interest if one of you resigns and seeks employment elsewhere if you want your relationship to continue.
Consensual Relationship Agreements
A growing number of companies are asking employees engaged in romances to sign consensual relationship agreements in which they acknowledge that the relationship is consensual and that the dating duo will not allow their soap opera to play out in the office should the love affair sour, reports Kathryn Tyler for the Society for Human Resources Management. While the likelihood of an employer suing an employee for violating one of these '‘love contracts’' is relatively small, the hope is that these contracts will serve as a deterrent to inner-office hookups and a way to encourage those who find love in the office to put every effort into making the relationship a drama-free one, minimizing its affect on the work environment.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.