Home News Markets Technology Commentary Personal Finance Autos Real Estate
    SAVE   |   EMAIL   |   PRINT   |   RSS  
Rules for office romance
5 Tips: The right way to deal with love in the workplace.
February 14, 2005: 2:10 PM EST
By Gerri Willis, CNN/Money contributing columnist
Video More video
CNN's Gerri Willis shares tips on what you should know about office romance.
premium content Play video

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - So you're spending this Valentine's Day at the office. Maybe you live for some great office romance gossip at the water cooler -- or you're the center of it.

How kosher is a little love in the workplace? With nearly 20 percent more singles in the workplace now that there were ten years ago, some employers are changing the rules.

Rules? Yes, there are some out there. Here are today's top five tips on doing love in the workplace the right way.

1. Know the rules of romance.

One estimate from Challenger, Gray and Christmas says some 20 million workplace romances are actually hot and heavy right now. The truth is the rules of interoffice dating are easing. Once, you could be fired for such an offense.

However, that attitude has changed as singles represent a larger portion of the civilian workforce than ever before, 44 percent according to American Management Association, and are working longer hours. Bosses have become more open to the idea because in many cases, looser rules have boosted employee morale.

Still, many of these romances start before either party knows the rules. Don't let it get too far before you know for sure if it's ok. Check out your company's employee handbook and take a good look around you. If no one dates or has dated, you could be in a strict environment.

2. Consider the unintended consequences.

Many employers don't encourage office romance because if there is a disagreement or the romance fizzles, it can make for a very uncomfortable work environment for you and others.

You will likely still have to see that person everyday. Tension between the two of you after a break-up might affect your work, your co-workers and your clients. In some relationships breakups are messy. Dr. Joni Johnston, CEO of WorkRelationships.com, says she has seen many instances where one person becomes obsessed with the other.

Also, keep in mind that mixing love and a relationships at work makes you the perfect target for water-cooler talk. Besides putting your professional image on the line, you'd best have a thick skin.

3. Steer clear of the absolute no's.

Don't date a subordinate and certainly avoid the boss. Romancing either one puts you in a very dangerous position. For one thing, you could become the target of a sexual harassment suit.

Some companies who have allowed an individual to date a subordinate have asked both parties to sign contracts stating the relationship is consensual.

Dating the boss can make you look like you're trying cheap tactics to get to the top. Plus, breaking up with the boss could leave you without a job. Office dating really makes the most sense between peers.

4. Keep it on the down-low.

If you do find the love of your life a cubicle away, try to be discreet. Keep the love letters off company e-mail, which is the property of your boss, not you.

Avoid public displays of affection. And certainly, stay focused on work. Your co-workers will scrutinize the quality of your work if they know you are dating your cubbie hubbie.

5. Discuss the issues that might arise.

Let's face it, in the dating world, there are more frogs than princes. So the likelihood of that fling with your coffee-break pal working out isn't too high.

If things do get serious, you'll want to discuss how you can handle it as two professionals. How will you handle co-workers' questions? Should one of your pursue a job in another department or another company? What if it doesn't work out?

Also, tell your supervisor, especially if you two work closely together. They might want to reassign one of you to another position that allows for some space.

If you're the boss of two lovebirds, Challenger, Gray & Christmas suggests meeting with each separately, to discuss any possible ramifications.

Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News and the host for Open House. E-mail comments to 5tips@cnn.com.  Top of page


Corporate Governance
Manage alerts | What is this?