Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time - What's Wrong With Office Dating?
By Judith Brown
It started out innocently enough. She (we'll call her Sara) was simply looking for a job. He (let's call him Sam) was the vice president. Initially, the
arrangement seemed to be working. Sara and Sam worked well together. He was her advocate in every way, treating her kindly and earning her respect as a
Sara, on the other hand, was a verypetent assistant. She was intelligent, showed savvy business sense, and her administrative skills were superb.
The two got along quite well.
In time they developed deep feelings for one another and began dating. While they appeared to conduct themselves
professionally during business hours, the rumor mill in the office wasn't so kind. Sara, who had worked hard at earning her degree and keeping a polished reputation,
was now referred to in secret as Sam's "beck and call girl." Instead of being known as the professionally trained assistant her co-workers saw her as an
Sam, a young up-and-coming professional himself, was now referred to as the office gigolo, a title he was not fond of.
stress took its toll. Sara obtained employment elsewhere, and while she and Sam still talk occasionally, the relationship has cooled. Ironically, one of the reasons they
chose to date was because the demands of the job made it difficult to meet other people, get to know someone new.
- So what went wrong? - Why can't co
-workers work together and date in their personal time without it becoming the topic for discussion at the workplace? - Is it fair?
Let's address these issues
and more one at a time.
1) What went wrong?
You can't assume that every adult in the workplace is a mature adult.
Many aren't. It might not be nice for people to gossip, but that's part of life in the workplace. And it doesn't matter what type of environment you work in (warehouse,
construction site, attorney's office, etc.) people are going to talk. If you're going to date a co-worker, you should know that going in.
can't two adults work together and date?
It might not be against the law to date a co-worker, but you could be breaking office policies. If you're
not sure, check with your employee's handbook or consult with someone in your HR department. If there are rules against it, you might want to discuss the penalties
with the object of your affections. After all, maybe that person isn't into you enough to lose their job. On the other hand maybe they're way into you and are willing to
be transferred or seek employment elsewhere. Bottom line: if policies prohibit dating a co-worker, it's a serious matter and you just might lose more than you gain by
3) "It's not fair!"
If life was fair, I'd be taller, slender and rich. Still, although being the topic of the rumor mill
isn't up there with world hunger or the state of the economy, it can be a source of grave anxiety.
4) Sexual harassment
Whether or not policies are in place regarding dating a co-worker, you better be awfully careful how you broach the subject of dating.
Be discerning. It should go without saying, but I'll repeat it anyway: sexual harassment is against the law! If your Cupid says he or she isn't interested in dating you - for
whatever reason - do not approach the subject again. That could be interpreted as sexual harassment - and you don't want that on your resume! Your inviting a co-
worker to dinner could be perfectly innocent, but a jury just might see it differently. NO really does mean NO! Regardless of what you've read in books, or have seen
on the screen - if someone tells you they don't want to go out with you or talk to you on the phone - give it a rest. And for the record, lurking outside someone's home
at 2am doesn't exactly endear them to you.
5) The bunny in the pot.
Chances of your co-worker becoming a stalker
might be slim, but do you really want to take that chance? Another thing to consider: dating a co-worker is the equivalent of "lots of togetherness." If you're not
looking for something serious, or long-term, dating a co-worker might not be the best solution. Besides, Thumper doesn't deserve to suffer on your behalf.
all earnestness, there are many factors to consider before dating someone at the office. Think it through clearly. Ask yourself: What will I gain? What can I lose? Is
my job worth it? Will it ruin my reputation? If you take time to ponder these points, you just might make the right decision.
-- Judith Brown is a nationally published freelance writer out of Harrisburg, PA. With
over 25 years in the work force, her varied background represents county and state government, non-profit organizations, corrections, and the advertising industries.
She is also an editor for a health care publisher, and contributing editor of Art Nouveau magazine, Positively Celebrity, and Fancast.
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