‘Oh my God, what if it’s inside you?’ The eighth story in the ‘Tales of A Fuckgirl’ series…
There’s a reason workplaces have HR policies against relationships.
So, you’ve dipped your pen in the company ink? Rest assured – you’re far from alone. According to a Match.com study of 11,000 attached Americans, the number one place to meet a spouse is at work. And while hooking up within your workplace is far from ideal, this modern-day dating method can actually work, within a set of boundaries which both parties uphold.
Here’s 7 bits of relationship advice to make your relationship work – at work.
1. Be honest with your colleagues, but spare the details
People hate being played the fool. Stealing kisses in the stationary closet will not win you any friends. A brief heads up of ‘Dave and I are seeing each other’ is appropriate to your closest colleagues. If you have an HR department, notify them and they’ll spread the juicy goss to upper management (who’d probably laugh if you approached them about this yourself).
2. Accept that your colleagues may grow to resent your partnership
The novelty of ‘how adorable were Sarah from Accounts and Bill at the Christmas party’ will expire quicker than a pre-packaged salad. For a number of reasons including old fashioned jealousy, bystanders generally grow tired of couples within the office, and very quickly coupled up co-workers have a target on their back for when things don’t get done.
3. Don’t bring your love-in to work
It would be fantastic to be able to flick that switch and go from coupledom bliss to separate employees but it will take some practise. One moment you’re in the car together debating fungal treatments, the next you’re signing off your emails with Sincerely. Try and treat each other as co-workers during the 9-5.
4. On the flipside, don’t bring your work home with you
It’s great to have someone who knows exactly what you’re talking about when you’re ranting about work, but encourage each other to put up your hands and say ‘Stop’ when the other is talking incessantly about the office. Make an effort to share your work war stories with another friend because once you open that dialogue at home, it is difficult to stop it.
5. Remember: your career is your number one priority
At least during the initial stages of the relationship. You really must endeavour to protect your career as your first priority. If your partner’s behaviour is endangering your position at the company (and remember, people are already out of place with your union to start with and cannot separate the two of you in their minds) consider moving on.
6. That being said, hatch an Escape Plan
That is, a relationship pre-nup that stipulates what you’d both do if it all went South; if you’d resign or how you’d manage etc. It sounds calculating and unromantic (because that’s exactly what it is) but this planning surely could have saved many tantrums and rash transfers to the Northern Territory.
7. Make sure the risk is worth it. Would you be attracted to this person if you weren’t surrounded by mind-numbing work? Keeping in mind that you only get one shot at romance per office – without your boss thinking you’re unfocused or a plain ole’ hussy; so choose wisely.
Have you dated at work? Any bits of relationship advice for office romance?
Anna James is a freelance writer based in Sydney. Follow her on Twitter at @missannajames.
Whether office romance leads to a D&M relationship, or just a fling, research suggests 65 per cent of us will find a bit of sizzle in the office. Dr Jeff Patrick, a lecturer at the School of Management at Griffith University, says that most workplace relationships are between single people working in different departments at a similar level of seniority.
“I think it’s terrific. I am a big believer in it,” he says.
Here are some general rules for conducting a successful office liaison.
(For those stupid enough to be dating the boss, stalking or harassing a co-worker, sleeping with a married colleague or seducing a subordinate we suggest professional help.)
- No physical displays of affection
Debra has worked in HR for more than ten years and has often been amazed at the lack of commonsense shown by some workplace couples.
She remembers one in particular who held hands throughout a work-related seminar. Even at office functions held after hours, the slobbering kiss and accompanying grope on the dance floor is OUT.
- Don’t bring home to the office
Debra remembers another couple who commandeered a meeting room for more than an hour just so they could spend time together.
Don’t “hang out” at each other’s desks either. If you need to discuss domestics or just be together, use your lunch break.
- Spreading the news
Let people know you’re dating before you become grist for the office gossip mill.
Dr Patrick suggests one half of the couple pick a co-worker they know will spread the word. Deliver the news in a low-key but positive way. When “the news” reaches the other half of the couple, he or she should confirm it in an equally low-key and positive way.
To avoid embarrassment, hold off letting colleagues know about your relationship until you’re sure it’s definitely going somewhere.
- Maintain separate identities
Dr Patrick says one of the biggest problems dating co-workers face is being seen “as one unit”. He says colleagues assume that telling something to one half of the couple means that it will automatically be communicated to the other. Likewise, colleagues assume both members of a couple share the same views.
To combat this, never agree to carry a message to your partner from a colleague, no matter how trivial. Also make a pact to make up your own mind about people and accept you may have different likes and dislikes.
- No dirty laundry
Don’t brag about your partner’s sexual prowess, lament bedroom failures or confide his battle with dandruff. EVER.
It’s disrespectful to your partner and to your colleagues to “over share”.
Even revealing intimate details about yourself might be letting colleagues know more about you and your partner than they would like.
- No pillow talkLife can become sticky when one member of a couple is on the senior management team; is the PA to the managing director or is a member of the finance or human resources team.
Co-workers and senior managers will frown on pillow talk that involves sensitive or commercially secret information.
- Life ‘outside’Dr John Armstrong, author of Conditions of Love – The Philosophy of Intimacy, advises couples to make a particular effort to talk about things other than work.
“Something has brought couples together that is very, very specific – a project, a detested boss – so the romance could be very intense but it’s only about a little part of their lives when you consider their lives as a whole,” he says.
“For love to survive, the relationship has to be very broadly based and it has to work in lots of ways,” he says.
He says that someone attracted to a coworker because they want to “feel understood” could create an unrealistic expectation that everything he or she does will be understood.
“It’s a very beautiful ideal but it doesn’t work in reality,” he says.
- Winners and losers“When people are in love they tend to think they are special and they might even feel slightly sorry for the rest of the world – other people are nice but they are not as wonderful as their partner,” says Dr Armstrong.
As a result, co-workers can feel excluded. Or maybe all your gushing is just plain painful. The bottom line is ‘be aware’ of how you’re acting
- Tips for managersManagers risk being accused of discrimination or of intruding into the private life of their employees if they don’t tread carefully when tackling any behavior or work performance issue involving a couple.
“Managers should role play how they propose handling the situation with the HR manager,” she says. “Even experienced HR people should tread carefully with this issue.”
By Kate Southam, Editor www.careerone.com.au
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