Office Romance

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.

Office Romance Continued

    • 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

You can direct any specific job hunting or workplace question to editor@careerone.com.au