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Ten tips on dating a coworker

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Mixing business with pleasure is a dangerous bet and office romances are risk-laden from the word go. Yet surveys reveal that 74 % of all office workers have dated a co-worker and an equally substantial number are interested to do so. It is easy for romance to bloom when you are thrown together for long hours and have similar interests and leisure periods. So you may have fallen in love with her beside the photocopier and she may have flipped for your computer skills, but both of you must weigh a number of considerations before you start dating.

1. Recognizing a strong attraction

You must be genuinely convinced that your co-worker is interested in you. He or she may be sending signals, like taking detours to be near your cabin, singling out your reports for compliments, trying to share lunch and coffee breaks with you, staying near you during office parties and making inquiries about your personal life. She may even send flirty e-mail messages to you. You must try to watch, learn and think before expressing your interest to him/her.

2. Make sure you are not violating company policy

Most companies frown on office romances and co-workers dating. Though it may not be written down in any rulebooks, companies recognize that office romances are Pandora’s boxes, which may negatively affect productivity, and so they discourage co-workers from dating. For example hospitals do not encourage doctor-nurse romances. So if you are considering dating a co-worker, you must first consult the company employee handbook if there is a rule against dating or marrying a co-worker. If there is, it is best to consult and inform your boss in an honest manner and discuss solutions for both to stay within the same company. Most bosses may adopt a 'don’t ask, don’t tell' attitude, and work out a compromise like shifting one of you to a different department.

3. Keeping it discreet

One of the most important lessons, which people have learnt, is to keep an office romance discreet. Rumour mills and grapevines thrive on the grist of possible- ongoing-failed romances. Your office may contain many people who are inimical to you and waiting to speak ill of you. It’s a dog-eat-dog situation and an office romance is the best way to feed the rumour mills. Especially if a romance sours, it may be very unpleasant and embarrassing for both of you at the workplace if you have had a very highflying public romance. Your decisions, motivations, actions, all may be weighed in terms of your romantic interest in a co-worker. Be prepared for co-workers to be talking behind your back. So the best policy is to keep your romance low key and quiet until it turns really serious. It will avoid complicating relationships with other co-workers.

4. Don’t date your subordinate

It is not a wise decision to date a subordinate. Especially do not date someone who reports directly to you or whose future security, promotion and career advancement depends on you. For one, you might be accused of favouritism of showing extra regard to him/her, or maybe even of manipulation and sexual harassment later on, if the romance sours. Dating a subordinate confuses and complicates the work relationship between both of you, however much you try to avoid it. A soured romance may have a negative effect, with either the difficulty in working together or one party blaming the other and spoiling the general atmosphere.

5. Try to date someone in a different office or a floor

You may work in the same company but your romance has a better chance if you work in different offices or on different floors. For one, you are not always bumping into each other the whole time. You can keep the romance discrete and avoid feeding the rumour mills. You are also not likely to bore yourself with full time interaction. Because if you are in the same office, you may have nothing very different to share with each other on the daily goings-on and intrigues and you may lose the spark in your romance. As someone said, familiarity breeds contempt. But more important, you may escape being the target of office intrigues, accusations of favouritism, and character assassination.

6. Avoid public displays of affection

Even if you don’t want to be too discrete, it is better to avoid public displays of affection in the office. Save the handholding and caressing for after-hours. Cloying displays of affection spoil the office atmosphere. Also the habit of sending electronic messages or e-mails containing love declarations is best avoided. Most office employees have access to all office e-mails on the excuse of checking for suspected pornographic content and illegal material. And in the process, all your intimate letters will be the joke of the office.

7. Keep your quarrels at home

Being discrete also means that you do not carry to the workplace your disputes and quarrels. Shouting and abusing each other at work destroys the peace of the work-place and affects negatively the productivity of individuals. Co-workers can mess up work because they have had a lover’s tiff, and vitiate the atmosphere by setting up rival camps in the staff. It results in back-biting, stalling of work and confrontation.

8. Come clean about other affairs

Before you start a new romance with a co-worker who happens to be the girl of your dreams, you must confess to her about previous romances in the workplace, if any. This is the problem with the work-place. Dating co-workers seldom escapes anyone’s attention, and remains in everyone’s memory to haunt you forever. The dirty details maybe exaggerated by back-biters, so it is important that you come clean with your lady love before others try to spoil things between you.

9. Have an exit strategy

Before you embark on a romance with a co-worker you must weigh the possibility of a break-up. Be prepared for embarrassment and back-biting if a publicly conducted romance sours. You may have to work with him/her even if you hate each other’s guts. You may also have to accept that the office is familiar with your dirty laundry. So you must have an exit strategy wherein you part with your lover on amicable terms. Firstly, do not allow emotional pressures to affect your professional performance. Secondly, be prepared by never allowing intimate demeanour to affect your professional relationship. Thirdly, you must part as friends.

10. Develop a strong personality

Only those with a strong personality can successfully date a co-worker, as you encounter a sea of troubles once you start an office romance. You must be ready to fight the odds - company policy, office gossip, fear of blackmail, and the general tempest of affairs. There is the possibility that she will accuse you of harassment or blackmail, or the office will question your every decision as a sign of favouritism. Either way, you must be ready to face the flak.

These tips will help you if you are still convinced that your co-worker is the mate of your dreams and is worth going through all the trouble to woo him/her.