Office relationships are always a thorny topic, and despite the obvious advice of “don’t have one,” many of us have or know people who have had office romances at some point in our careers. Some have ended in disaster—ruined careers, ruined romances, or even both. But some have had pretty happy endings.
I’m grateful to be one of the latter. I met my wife at work. We started dating shortly after she joined my department as a new project manager, and we married a few years later. Did it jeopardize my career? Well, considering that our CEO was one of our godfathers at the wedding, I’d say it didn’t.
Having an office romance wasn’t easy, I’ll tell you that. But we followed a few rules that made the relationship—and our careers—work. And in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to share them with you:
1. Stay Professional at Work
This rule is the first because it’s the most important. You never, ever want your co-workers to feel uncomfortable because you lovebirds couldn’t keep your hands off each other. I mean, managing accusations of favoritism between friends is bad enough, but with a significant other? That’s a really easy trap to fall into. My wife and I were always careful to behave professionally inside the office. We were so good at it, in fact, that nobody realized we were dating until months into the relationship—when we told people.
And if ever you’re tempted to slip into an empty room for some quality time, don’t assume you’re safe. Many companies use security cameras, and someone’s got to review all that footage.
2. Be Good at Your Job
One of the biggest objections an employer would have with an office romance is that it might affect the quality of your work. Fights—and even flirting—might be too big a distraction for the both of you, and for the rest of the team.
Don’t let the quality your work slide. If anything, strive to do better. That way, you can show management that not only are you mature enough to handle the relationship, you’re using it as an inspiration.
3. Set Boundaries
Boundaries don’t just apply to how you behave at work. It also applies to how you behave with each other. Do you not discuss work issues at home? Do you take separate cars to work? When my wife and I went out with co-workers after hours, we decided to only get affectionate around people we trusted. If anyone else was there, we kept up “the act”.
4. Rise Above the Gossip
You can’t be in a relationship with someone and pretend you don’t matter to each other, no matter how professionally you act. Our co-workers gossiped about us all the time, and would even resort to teasing or practical jokes determined to push us “over the edge” (little did they know we were already over it). But we stuck to our guns and let the gossip slide—even when some of it made us uncomfortable.
5. Know When to Quit
Sometimes, despite your best efforts at professionalism and affection, the status quo will no longer work. Maybe one of you gets promoted and the relationship can’t handle the change. Maybe your boss catches wind and isn’t supportive. Maybe the gossip gets too out of hand and your team turns hostile.
At that point, you’ll have to decide which is more important to you: the relationship, or the career. When you reach this point, the two of you should speak honestly and maturely about how you both feel and what each of you wants.
The results may surprise you!
Image credit, Flickr, Anita Hart