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Mars vs. Venus: Can Workplace Romance Work?

It’s been a while since the last Mars vs. Venus entry was posted, and if you haven’t read them, you can check out the previous ones here and here. If you are unfamiliar with this type of entry, I will share my female perspective on this topic, and at the end will have a link to my friend Jamey’s blog where his male perspective will be given. Other than deciding on the topic we haven’t discussed any of our points or ideas, so I’m curious to see what he has to say about workplace romances. By no means am I an expert on this subject, but I do have some experience with this particular topic, and have made some observations over the years when witnessing friends or co-workers attempt these types of relationships, so hopefully you will be able to learn something from my advice.

In movies and tv shows that are centered around an office setting,the cliché of workplace romance always seems to make its way into the storyline. Sometimes the writers give an accurate portrayal of how workplace romances begin or end, but there are also those occasions where it is romanticized, like in the case of Pam and Jim in The Office. The shift in focus from Michael’s crazy antics to it becoming the “Pam & Jim show” is one of the reasons I gave up on this great show a couple of years ago, because I couldn’t stand seeing such an unrealistic workplace romance taking place week after week.

Over the years I’ve learned some important lessons firsthand about dating a co-worker, and have watched other relationships flourish or fail depending on certain actions taken by the parties involved.

In my own relationship experiences I’ve never dated anyone I work with in the same office on a daily basis, but the thought has crossed my mind on more than one occasion. And I have dated men who worked for the same company as me, just in other locations. Recently I actually came very close to dating a co-worker, and while we have good chemistry, the fear that our relationship would be gossiped about like others I’ve heard of and gossiped about myself in the past kept me from taking it further than a flirtation.

For people like myself, who work a full-time job, and aren’t fans of going out to bars or clubs in our free time, our co-workers sometimes take on the roles of friends, substitute family members, and even love interests, just because of the amount of time spent together in such close proximity.

When you spend several hours each day with someone, you definitely learn a lot about that person, and if you’re both single and there’s a certain level of chemistry between you, it only seems natural to consider them as a potential date.

By the time you’ve gotten to the point where you could consider dating them, you will hopefully have already learned if they have weird habits, and should be confident that they aren’t crazy or a serial killer– all of which are perks over online dating, where those thoughts have crossed my mind every single time I’ve attempted that dating route.

Before attempting to have a workplace romance, here are some important things to consider:

Does your company have a policy allowing or prohibiting relationships between employees? If a policy exists like this, find out exactly what the rules are before even attempting a first date. Some companies have rules about peers being able to fraternize, but it’s not acceptable for a superior and underling to have a relationship, or they might require disclosure of your relationship status, regardless of what positions each of you hold. If the policy says “No,” it’s better to walk away and search for someone else than to put your job at jeopardy over a relationship that probably won’t last anyway.

Is the relationship going to affect your work? Bringing personal interests into the workplace can cause distractions for both you and your partner, as well as co-workers depending on how much of your relationship you bring into the workplace. Even in cases where I’ve had harmless flirting with co-workers, I’ve tried to not let it interfere with my level of professionalism. Sure, it might seem romantic to sneak a kiss at the copier, but no one really wants to see your public displays of affection, and doing so might harm any chances of promotion if your bosses think you are more interested in your partner than the work you should be doing.

Are you planning on keeping it a secret, or letting everyone know? Keeping your relationship a secret is probably the smarter choice, but somehow someone will find out. And once one person knows, the news will no doubt spread like wildfire. Even if you haven’t confirmed the relationship publicly, be prepared for gossip and speculation, and if confronted don’t lie about it.

Set expectations of where the relationship is headed sooner rather than later. If both parties are just interested in a casual fling, that’s a discussion that should also probably happen before either person can get too attached and end up with hurt feelings. If there is the possibility that this little workplace connection could turn into something more, be honest with the other person and let them know you want more than an occasional hookup, but be prepared to face rejection if they don’t want the same thing. I’m not saying you should have a “defining the relationship” talk on the first date, but it should definitely happen before you get intimate with each other, if that’s where things are heading.

Have a plan in place to keep things from being awkward at work after the breakup. In the event that you start dating and things don’t work out, it’s a smart idea to have a plan on how you will treat each other post-breakup. Expect it to be a little awkward if you’ve seen each other naked, and are now forced to sit across from them on a regular basis and act like nothing happened. In one of my past relationships, my ex and I worked for the same company, and I was caught completely off-guard when he showed up to a meeting that he wasn’t originally on the list of attendees when I had selected to attend. Our breakup was less than amicable at the time, so it was one of the most awkward 3 hours of my life, especially since we had lived together, and almost everyone present knew we had been a couple as well as the reasons why we broke up. Had I known he was going to be there, I would have rescheduled my meeting time to avoid the awkwardness. If you’ve decided to stay friends, that’s great, but keep it as just friends and don’t try to rekindle the relationship once you’ve called it quits. As a worse case scenario, check out alternatives for transferring to another department or location.

If I seem a little negative with my advice on how to approach a workplace romance, it’s because I’ve never been in one that worked, and I’m skeptical of them ever working out. Some of my friends have also attempted to have such a relationship, and theirs always ended poorly, too.

Only one case of a successful workplace romance exists from people who I know, and the only reason theirs lasted is they did a good job of keeping it a secret until one of the parties no longer worked for the same company. There was ample speculation of their relationship, but since neither person ever brought any relationship drama into work, asking about it was out of the question. Their success gives me a little bit of hope that finding love at work could happen, but I have no idea what they went through trying to keep their relationship secret and to make it last.

Maybe my skepticism is unnecessary, and workplace romances like Pam and Jim really can thrive. I’ve been wrong before on countless occasions, and would love to see or hear about a real-life happy ending where a couple lasted against all odds (including the dreaded friend zone) from a relationship that started out at work.

I haven’t read what Jamey has to say about workplace romance, and I’m very eager to hear the male opinion, so click over here to read his perspective.

What are your thoughts on workplace romance? Can they work, or is the idea just an unrealistic dream? If you’ve had a successful one, please feel free to share your tips in the comments.

Responses (8)

  1. […] a topic (usually relationships) from the male angle (mine) and the female angle (in this case, Katy’s). We do not read each other’s posts in advance, so I’m just as curious as you are to […]

  2. Very interesting, and very well written. I think it’s interesting that you kind of focused on all of the questions you should ask if you’re about to enter (or have already entered) a workplace relationship–perhaps you learned, as I did, from the LDR post the people who read these posts aren’t going to say no to love or lust based on what we say, but rather they’re looking for ways to make it work.

    One interesting element that you mentioned several times is the secrecy. I think sometimes the secrecy of a workplace relationship becomes too connected to the chemistry. It FEELS romantic to sneak around and have a secret love that no one knows about, but if so much of the chemistry is built on that forbidden excitement, what happens when the secret is out? I think there are healthier and more stable things on which to build chemistry.

    Looking forward to seeing how people respond to these entries.

  3. Joe says:

    There’s nothing I can say here that Jamey didn’t say. He hit my feelings on your post pretty much on the head from solid writing to the ideas of secrecy = spiciness. Why am I commenting at all? Proof that I read your part. 🙂

  4. Well written. I’ve worked for the same corporation for 14 years and I’ve made a rule that I would never date anyone who works for the same company. I’ve stuck with it, because i know that i’m not prepared to deal with any emotional backlash, or the distractions that come with that type of situation. I try to keep my personal and work lives separate because that’s what works best for me and I want to always be viewed as a professional, without all the extra speculation (and gossip). I like the idea of you and someone else piggybacking for the female and male perspective.

    • Thanks! Would you like to see Katy and me write about any other specific topics from the female and male perspectives?

      • Hi. Not that I can think of at the moment! At some point, I’ll go back and read the prior topics you covered. Thanks!

        • Katy says:

          Thanks for the feedback (and big thanks to Jamey for picking up my slack and commenting back)! 🙂

          The links to the others I’ve contributed on are at the top of this post, but I’d definitely head over to Jamey’s blog, as there are several other pieces with various female contributors– and they make for some interesting reading. If you can think of a topic you’d like us to sound off on, feel free to let either of us know!

  5. […] will provide his male perspective over on his blog. In the past, we’ve covered flirtation, workplace romances, and long-distance relationships, and if you haven’t read any of those posts I recommend […]

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