Office romance: What to do and what not to

Office romance

Romance turns introverts into extroverts and reclusive loners into team players.

Photo credit: Samuel Muigai | Nation Media Group

You’d be surprised how many couples meet through their work. With so many men and women working together these days, the office has become a natural place to find a partner.

And despite managers’ misgivings, successful working romances do benefit the organisation. Romance turns introverts into extroverts and reclusive loners into team players. And relationships that start in the office also tend to be long lasting, far longer than those that started in a bar!

So, why are office romances so successful?

Partly it’s because people who work together tend to have similar interests, values and education. Which is a good basis for a successful relationship. In fact, work’s like a dating agency, because companies recruit employees who’ll fit into the same corporate culture as you do, so they make really good dates!

And you’re constantly around someone you feel familiar and safe with. When you have a problem, you talk about it with someone sitting near you. You already know them. Their favourite food. What makes them laugh. How they handle pressure. And their ex.

At work you’re valued for your ability to get things done. And the work environment boosts adrenaline levels, which encourages erotic feelings. Especially where men and women not only spend long hours together, but work under intense pressure. Like hospitals, law firms and newsrooms, for example.

Office romances tend to develop in predictable stages. You feel a romantic interest in a colleague, start dressing up, daydreaming and working harder to impress them. Soon you realise the attraction's mutual and act upon it.

Don’t imagine that your new relationship will remain a secret! But colleagues are generally entirely supportive so long as they sense that you’re genuinely in love. But they usually disapprove of someone who’s just having a sexual fling. Especially extramarital affairs, where colleagues tend to feel awkward, resentful and ‘caught in the middle’.

Dating the boss is the biggest no-no. And that’s all about politics of course. Because everyone imagines that power’s being acquired in the bedroom. Even if a lover’s promotion is genuine and well deserved, it won’t be seen like that.

Breaking up is also far harder in the office. Having to work with an ex-lover every day can be miserable, and it brings out the worst in people. Like allegations of sexual misconduct. An office romance should always be completely mutual, of course. But when attraction wanes, sexual harassment accusations often start. Around what the other side says was a consensual relationship.

So be discrete if you start falling for someone at work. Ensure that your professionalism isn’t called into question, have clear boundaries, and don’t carry fights from home into the office. Resist dating the boss or sleeping with a married colleague. Be aware of your company’s attitudes towards relationships, how your colleagues responded to previous romances, and how senior managers reacted.

But never say never. Because dating one of your colleagues could lead to a wonderful, life-long relationship.