Love me dos and don'ts of workplace romance

Cupid’s arrow has struck. You’re smitten with a colleague. But what will it do to your future at work? Should you hide your new relationship? Does your boss need to know?

Workplace romances are incredibly common. If you’re a typical Kiwi you’ll spend 60,000 hours of your life at work, says Debbie Schultz of Career Engagement Group. It’s inevitable that eyes will meet and hearts will melt.

Workplace romances are incredibly common. If you're a typical Kiwi you'll spend 60,000 hours of your life at work, says Debbie Schultz of Career Engagement Group.

Schultz quotes a US report that revealed 84% of employees think sex with a colleague is fine with 55% having done it. Schultz canvassed other Kiwi HR experts and the general agreement was that office romances are okay.

Before you sidle up to your crush and declare your unrequited lust, brush up on these love me dos and love me don’ts:  

Love me dos:

  • Check out your company’s policies about relationships at work.  Some organisations are relaxed and others say “no way”. If it’s against the rules then you may not be able to have that office fling while you’re working together.
  • Tell your boss sooner rather than later. It’s better that your boss finds out about your new-found love from you. Ask for a confidential meeting with your manager and explain the situation, says Schultz. 
  • Be professional. If you can keep the details of your love life out of work and maintain decorum your colleagues are more likely to let you get away with passionate glances across the lunch room.
  • Consider if one of you should switch jobs. You might be able to seek a transfer in a large organisation or to move jobs if you work for a smaller company, says Schultz. The more senior your role the more difficult an office relationship can be. Staff aren’t always comfortable with two managers having a relationship – especially if there could be pillow talk.
  • Address issues between you and your lover out of the office. Your personal discussions are best held out of hours.
  • Discuss your situation with an independent professional. Some large organisations offer internal and external industrial counselling services. If this isn’t available to you consider talking to a career coach who can give you an independent opinion.

Love me don’ts:

  • Don’t spill the beans too early. It’s probably best not to announce your new romance the day after the Christmas party. “It might fizzle out,” says Schultz. Wait a few weeks at least just in case what you did in a drunken haze turns out not to be long lived.
  • Think that you can hide it forever. There are lots of tell-tale signs.  People will spot the meaningful glances between you, the fact that you defend each other or that you seem to have a lot in common to discuss.
  • Carry out your lust on company property. It’s quite incredible how often security guards, cameras, and colleagues uncover romantic liaisons, says Schultz. That includes in offices, first aid rooms and even open-plan spaces.
  • Get it on with subordinates or bosses if it can be avoided. There can be accusations of favouritism. Or if the relationship goes sour, it could go all the way to the Employment Relations Authority. However, sometimes it just can’t be helped. Michelle Obama was Barack’s supervisor when they met and Bill Gates married his employee Melinda.