How to be Professional While Dating at Work

With so much time spent with co-workers, sparks are bound to fly. How do you stay professional while navigating an office relationship? Here are some tips.

Dating in the office is often seen as taboo. In fact, there are many reasons why it’s a bad idea.

Yet, it still happens. From a poll of 1,200 Singaporeans, 52% said they would date a colleague. In another study by job site Vault.com, more than half surveyed have been involved in an office relationship, with some even finding romantic success. 22% of respondents enjoyed long-term, serious relationships, and 18% ended up getting married!

A study from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden has also discovered that office relationships can have a positive impact on work performance! Some reported being motivated to work harder while others simply enjoyed going to work more.

So, we’re past the question of whether romance has a place in the office. Rather, it’s figuring out how you can be as professional as possible while pursuing a relationship in the workplace. Here are a few tips: 

1. Know the rules

Not sure about the company’s policy on dating in the office? Find out sooner than later—your job may well depend on it! Many employers keep a check on interoffice dating not just for morale reasons but more serious issues like sexual harassment especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

So, flip through that employee handbook. If the anti-fraternisation clauses are clearly stated, then it’s best not to test them. But if not, then consider how you wish to proceed, exercising caution each step of the way.

2. Consider the risks

The challenges in a relationship are amplified in the workplace. For one, you’ll barely have time apart. That means small tiff or messy breakup, you’re expected to show up and perform, all while having the other party around constantly.

You’re also putting your reputation on the line. Some may question your professionalism simply because you’ve expressed interest in something other than your work. Or if you’re dating someone in your chain of command, people may be quick to attribute your partner’s or your success to ‘preferential treatment’, rather than hard work and good performance.

So, evaluate the potential outcomes and drawbacks. If there’s a possibility the relationship could jeopardise your career, then ask if it’s worth it.

3. Be transparent

We’re not suggesting you send an email blast about your new relationship but it’s definitely a good idea to get out in front of the rumour mill. Amy Nicole Baker, author of several papers on workplace romance, cautions that clandestine romances often have poorer outcomes and can affect other relationships. A culture of secrecy breeds mistrust and your co-workers will feel lied to when they eventually learn the truth.

So, decide with your partner when and how to disclose the news. If you’re both on the same team, make sure your line manager is amongst the first to know. They may have some considerations to make when it comes to structuring the team.

4. Professionalism is key

Yes, you want people to be in the know but that doesn’t mean subjecting your co-workers to the ins and outs of your relationship. While at work, assume the roles you have at work, and treat your partner like you would any other colleague. This is imperative to upholding the quality of your work, your credibility, and the overall morale of your team. In fact, workplace flirting has been associated with lower job satisfaction and higher levels of stress amongst co-workers!

In the event the relationship doesn’t work out, be civil about it. No one expects you to be all smiles but talking ill about the other party to your co-workers will hurt your professionalism. Practise transparency and update the colleagues you’ve told about the relationship, seeking their patience in getting through the rough patch.

If working alongside the other party becomes too awkward or painful, get out before your work suffers. This could mean transferring to another department or, sometimes, leaving the job.

If working alongside the other party becomes too awkward or painful, you may have to consider transferring departments or, at worst, leaving the job. Though drastic, this could be the best way to ensure your work doesn’t suffer.

Ultimately, if there’s one thing to take away it’s that dating a co-worker isn’t all bad. Just be professional and approach each step with careful consideration. When done right, your office relationship could make your work better and even be something you look forward to each day.

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