- Both people have a new pick up in their step; they find projects that you didn’t even know were on the horizon to work on together; they are suddenly putting in overtime even if they don’t get paid.
- They jump to each other’s defense and praise each other’s ideas even when neither makes any sense.
- They try to never leave the office at the same time but yet you bump into them at a local happy hour after work.
- They are in closed-door meetings a lot.
Romance in the office isn’t really that difficult to detect. Here’s the thing: having an office affair is never a good idea and this is especially true if you are married or in a committed relationship. Why? There are lots of reasons (other than the ethics of the situation). First, the relationship isn’t as secretive as the pair may think. They can be destructive to the morale of the company and may create an awkwardness that is very difficult for employers and employees to deal with.
Imagine you are in a high level position or involved with someone at that level, think of the consequences if the relationship ends badly. Your reputation could be ruined. You may lose your job. Claims of harassment also come to mind. The jilted lover can easily claim that the supervisor was harassing them when the romance goes sour. Consider how a sexual harassment charge will impact your career, your company and not to mention your family.
My friend once worked in a company where the Senior Vice President, Jack (not his real name) was having an affair with his Director of Human Resources, Dorothy (not her real name either). Dorothy’s husband found out about the affair, and, you guessed it, suddenly romance turned to ruthless. Dorothy made charges of sexual harassment and bribery against Jack. What followed resulted in Jack not only having to address the charges of misconduct but he also lost his job and had a difficult time finding another one.
The company suffered on various levels. During the time of the romance, staff became afraid to address issues that were critical or at odds with something either person was working on. A culture of favoritism was created where Dorothy was forgiven for things that other employees would be disciplined for. Co-workers feared that retaliation would result if they expressed an opinion that was critical of either of the lovebirds. Favoritism, a reality or not was definitely the perception when it came to bonuses and promotions. Because the CEO of the company didn’t take any action to stop the relationship staff felt powerless to change things and it went on long enough that some good people moved on to work for competitors.
So, if you feel that the person you have an office romance with is “the one” and you want to keep the relationship going what do you do? The answer is pretty straightforward. One of you should leave the company or if the company is large enough transfer to an area where you don’t work together AT ALL and there isn’t a tie in the chain of command.
With an increasing number of singles in the workplace, it’s my assumption that we will see an increase in the amount of dating coworkers. It’s important to be clear on the companies policies before you go on that first date and to always be aware that when you are involved with someone at work no matter how discrete you think you are – chances are good that people will know and once they do it will impact how you are perceived at work.