Mixing business and pleasure
May 6, 2005 4:03 AM   Subscribe

Anyone have any experiences (good or bad) regarding dating a coworker in an office environment?

It seems very likely that I will be romantically involved with a peer of mine at the office. I don't want to get too specific here because I'm paranoid. However I should say the wheels are already in motion, and I want to know if I'm making a mistake and should consider backing off. Note that this will be a tough sell, considering my high level of infatuation.

From reading online, my understanding is that most companies are somewhat tolerant of peers dating in the office, so long as it doesn't affect performance negatively, or create an uncomfortable environment for anyone. That said, preferrably no one would even know, although I know that will be difficult.

My main goal is to hear from people who have been or are currently involved in such a relationship. I have read plenty of speculation online, but I'm looking for more down to earth, real life situations.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (34 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've had a few workplace relationships over the years. Most were fine but a couple were a little weird. Weird in the sense that they didn't want to communicate at work OR wanted to communicate a bit too much -- I had both those and found them equally strange, difficult to discuss and sort of embarrassing.
Lay ground rules is the way I think now.
posted by peacay at 4:14 AM on May 6, 2005


Well, the workplace romance worked out very well for robocop_is_bleeding and I.

No one seemed to care, but we did a good job of keeping things on the down-low at work, and kept any issues for after-work. It helped that we worked in different departments, so we weren't actually working on anything together, and could give each other space as needed. There were definitely some days that I just didn't feel like being on, and it was a weird adjustment to turn on the charm on days when I was just schlepping through my boring work. That said, it's really nice to have the person you're interested in at work, when I switched jobs I missed those surprise visits to each other desks.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 4:22 AM on May 6, 2005


That said, I did have to use my position of authority to chase away other potential suitors. It's good to be the king.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:34 AM on May 6, 2005


A wise man told me "Dont screw with the crew."
posted by neilkod at 4:53 AM on May 6, 2005 [1 favorite]


At rough count, there are (or have been) 19 couples where I work.

In four of these cases, one of the partners has left the company - although not because of the relationship (that I know of, anyway!)

Two of the relationships have broken down (one after becoming engaged), but both partners still work here.

At least two (again, that I know of) have got married after getting together through work.

Overall, there are/have been 9 married couples - most of whom have worked here longer than 7 years (before my time, so I don't know if they met/married before or after working here).

I think that there are two guiding influences - (a) size of company (we've got about 3-400 people in the one building) and (b) not being in the same area of the business, or having corporate hierarchy issues (e.g. manager/underling relationships).

Any help?
posted by Chunder at 5:23 AM on May 6, 2005


I was told at my engineering internship, "Don't get your meat and your taters at the same store." Good rule of thumb.
posted by notsnot at 5:27 AM on May 6, 2005


Oh, they will know, make no mistake about that.

There are three such situations of long standing in my office, all apparently happy. All adulterous, curiously. And there is a child whose paternity is the occasional object of speculation.

In general, if you have doubts at all, it sounds like something to avoid if possible.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:45 AM on May 6, 2005


My stance is don't do it. My aphorism is: "Don't sleep where you work, don't work where you sleep."

The problem is two-fold: 1. You have to be very sure that you and your partner can keep a totally professional relationship without putting pressure on the relationship - if you want a quicky in the stationary cupboard but your partner has a deadline, are you going to honestly be able to understand that it's work, and not you that's the problem? and 2. If the relationship ends (as all but one relationship in your life will do, guaranteed), what pressures will that put on your working environment?
posted by benzo8 at 6:02 AM on May 6, 2005


Your timing is brilliant. For the past few months I've been becoming friendlier with a coworker in an office of about five people. A week ago, it turned romantic. Last night, she reconsidered and broke it off.

The work part of it wasn't really at issue, but work today was definitely strange for me. There were no work-related problems for me and this person before yesterday, but you should think ahead to the possibility of such a relationship ending, and the consequences as such. I'm of the opinion that, since one spends such a large amount of time at work, an unhealthy work environment can take a significant toll.

Good luck.
posted by rfordh at 6:04 AM on May 6, 2005


My husband and I met at work. We were assigned to the same doomed e-commerce project. Six months later (after I'd since moved onto a different project), we started dating. We managed to keep it quiet for a couple months, but it pretty much all came out at an alcohol-fueled company summer party. (Helpful Tip: Snogging on the dance floor is a dead giveaway.) Nobody seemed to mind; we'd already had one marriage between co-workers in the previous year. We were a very incestuous company, I guess. Only one colleague tried to discourage us with the old "Don't fish off the company pier" line, but he was pretty easy to ignore (and amusingly, he's now living with yet another of our co-workers, which goes to show what he knows). We ended up moving in together - sharing a house with two other co-workers - and for a time even had desks next to each other at work. (That wasn't by design.) So while we never had real "career" problems because of the relationship, it sure took a lot of mystery out of things once we started spending literally 24 hours a day within each other's sight. That was the only real down-side, if you ask me...
posted by web-goddess at 6:05 AM on May 6, 2005


We have 4 sets of couples at work. All IT people, although I technically work in the Finance Department. 3 of the 4 sets are peers in different sub-departments. 2 couples are married, 1 couple lives together, and I've been with my man for 3 years.

We are the "newest" couple, and were a subject of fascination for a period of time. My boss was slightly weirded out; as my man is one of his drinking buddies.

We keep everything professional at work. I do not talk about my man (or our dealings) at work at all. More simply put, I do not act like his girlfriend at work.

I had hesitations getting into this relationship, as I've had work relationships before. However, I took a look at what a great guy he is, his high level of integrity and respect for all his coworkers, and decided he is well worth it. I have no regrets
posted by xena at 6:12 AM on May 6, 2005


Lots of couples where I work. At one point I could name six married couples where both spouses worked here.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:25 AM on May 6, 2005


On a slight derail, I would love to hear more of the aphorisms people have for this situation- I've always heard "Don't shit where you eat" and "Don't get your butter where you get your bread", but all of you have some good ones, too.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:30 AM on May 6, 2005 [1 favorite]


I met my old lady at work and began dating within a few months of meeting. Yesterday was out 4 year anniversary. We work two floors apart and in totally different departments, which is a god send.

None of the upper management seemed to care one way or another when we started dating. Now I get the definite feeling that if we were to break up they [management] would hold me responsible and possibly break my legs (figuratively speaking).

The only people who seemed to care were the office gossips and snoops.

As far as the question I would recommend sitting back and seriously asking yourselves where you see this relationship going. Could it be love, or just lust?

If it is love go for it. If it's just lust go to a singles bar.

Also take into account that if things work out and you both stay at your current employer that this is a person who you are going to see all day long every day. Every breakfast, lunch and dinner more than likely; it gives commitment a new meaning.

You both need to agree on some boundaries as well. What is OK to talk about at work and what is not? When dating a co-worker that line that separates work life and personal life is blurred. Also too much seeing each other and talking to each other at work can really take the fun out of seeing each other after work.

It is a slippery slope to be sure. It can be fun too, your better half is always right there when you want to sneak away to the parking garage and make out while you are on break.
posted by thefinned1 at 6:51 AM on May 6, 2005


I had an office romance with the boss' secretary, and while it was great fun (snogging in the lift, making out in the boss' office at the xmas party) it went bad and that was so grim I left the company.

Unless you feel sure it's gonna be long-term, my advice is don't shit on your own doorstep.
posted by Pericles at 7:08 AM on May 6, 2005


I dated a co-worker for about six months last year - we had worked in the same (small) office for about two and a half years prior to starting to date, but I didn't start seeing him until he transferred to another office (in a totally different state, mind you, but that's another story). It was a great source of talk when people found out, but that died down, we had our relationship, we broke up, and life went on. I'm glad I dated him.

If you start dating a co-worker, people will find out. People like to live vicariously through others, and people love gossip. If you do this, I would follow what xena said and make sure you act professionally at work, as if you're not dating. It can be hard, but it's possible.

My aunt met her now-husband at work - they worked together in a very small department. When things got serious between them, they went to their supervisor and went over the "what ifs", then just made sure they had a good, mature relationship, fell in love, got married, and still work together. And they're doing wonderfully together.

There have been other threads similar to this - I think the deal is not to take a relationship with a co-worker too lightly, but don't shut off possibility. Just realize that a lot more people than normal are going to want to know exactly what's going on in your love life.
posted by bibbit at 7:08 AM on May 6, 2005


My favorite aphorism for this is "Don't dip your wick in the company ink."

While there are many stories of successful office romances, it could easily go horribly, spectacularly wrong. Especially in supervisor/supervisee situations, where the possibility of a sexual harassment lawsuit is very real (i.e. the relationship sours, one party accuses the other of abusing his or her power, and so on). Tread carefully.
posted by arco at 7:20 AM on May 6, 2005


One aphorism I've heard is "Don't get your meat where you get your bread."
posted by matildaben at 8:06 AM on May 6, 2005


I work in a very small company with only twenty or so employees. Two of them decided to get together. They had a kid, got married, and then it ended--badly. Their arguments became distracting for the rest of us. (It's an open office with cubicles.) The female half of the couple ended up leaving the company. My suggestion is don't do it.
posted by cass at 8:45 AM on May 6, 2005


I dated one person in the same department and one person from a different department. They weren't long term relationships, and when they ended it was just weird/awkward seeing the person. It didn't last long.

I know someone who had a horrible break up after a long-term relationship at work (they had a kid together too). It was very uncomfortable for them, including the people in their departments, for some time. But again, they got over it.

So, go for it. Just know that it will be awkward/uncomfortable should you break up.
posted by Mrs. Green at 8:57 AM on May 6, 2005


I don't think there is a single rule that would apply to all situations. I have dated coworkers before, and it can be both really fun and a real problem. In some environments, its great; in others, its more trouble than its worth. It all depends on the people involved - you, your potential significant other, and your coworkers. My two cents:

1) Assess your environment. Do you work in a laid-back office where people wouldn't really care about what you do with your romantic life? Or are you in an environment with a lot of gossip, competition, back-stabbing, and envy? If the latter, you might want to think twice.

2) Assess yourself and your potential SO. Think about the worst-case scenario: suppose you had an acrimonious breakup. Are you the type(s) who would harbor a grudge and find it impossible to dissociate your emotions from your professional relationship? Or could you maintain a professional relationship despite the bad blood? Be honest about yourself and about your potential SO.

3) Figure out (as others have suggested) some ground rules about your behavior inside and outside the office. It can be great to make googly eyes or inside jokes or send covert love notes to one another in an office environment - in fact, this is one of the thrilling and slightly transgressive aspects of office romances that makes them appealing - but in some environments it might not be a good idea. Determine whether you will let lust into the workplace (and vice-versa), and stick to it.

Best of luck.
posted by googly at 9:14 AM on May 6, 2005


I have been known to occasionally balance several low-level relationships, without any one being technically called dating, as long as I spread out what sectors of my life they each come from. My mother routinely calls this my "harem," and somehow it seems all-too appropriate.

That being said, I have in recent years been constantly walking a fine line, and am currently seeing (although it's not official) someone who is in a neighboring department in the company. By department, I mean Platoon, and by company, I mean US Army. This wouldn't be a problem if it weren't that she's an enlisted soldier and I'm an officer. Still, I've only seen her a handful of times while on the job, due to the slight difference in assignment, and we simply don't react to each other past the requirements of our jobs.

All that comes down to is: don't date anyone directly above or below you in the chain of command/authority, or anyone that could be directly linked by any less than two degrees to the same chain. As long as that boundary isn't crossed, I have yet to see a problem.
posted by mystyk at 9:25 AM on May 6, 2005


I just wanted to contribute an aphorism I just made up: don't get your staples at the gas station and don't hook up with people at work unless you really want to.
posted by mcsweetie at 9:26 AM on May 6, 2005


I had almost the same situation as rfordh's above. He reconsidered and broke it off, and I was miserable for a very long time (he, on the other hand, seemed quite unscathed). The worst of it was, I wasn't just dating someone at the same company, I was dating someone in the same office, in the same room, and often at the same desk, so every day, there he was. It nearly ruined my much-loved job for me.
posted by JanetLand at 9:42 AM on May 6, 2005


"Don't fish off the company pier."
posted by sacre_bleu at 10:06 AM on May 6, 2005


"Don't shit where you eat."
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 10:34 AM on May 6, 2005


"Don't shit in your lunchbox." As someone who's indulged in an office relationship, I think this one encapsulates the "surprises" that you can sometimes get in the middle of the day.
posted by MrZero at 12:22 PM on May 6, 2005


two close friends of mine, colleagues of my wife, started dating two years ago and are now engaged to be married in 2006. a number of people tried to dissuade them from getting involved, and i'm very glad they ignored that "advice," as they are tremendously happy together and the world needs more of that, not less.
posted by luriete at 12:25 PM on May 6, 2005 [1 favorite]


I worked in a team of four where two of the others started dating. I found out fairly quickly after bumping into them holding hands in the street. Team member no. 4 was oblivious for about two years.

In fact, he had no idea until they both went on holiday together and needed simultaneous leave. The longer they left it the more embarrassing it got to broach the subject. When they eventually told him, no. 4 said congratulations and wasn't at all bothered.

They got married and continued to work together and I don't think it ever caused any problems. One of the couple was the boss and he always seemed to deal fairly with everyone in the team. It was actually good to have half of the team in a good mood most of the time because they were together.

Mind you, the boss's previous relationship, with someone else in the office, had crashed and burned and his ex went on to go out with the overall boss, and that was much more problematic.

I guess it's all down to personalities, so YM is bound to V. Good luck.
posted by penguin pie at 12:53 PM on May 6, 2005


"Don't get your honey where you get your money."
posted by DakotaPaul at 1:27 PM on May 6, 2005


One of mine worked, the other didn't. When they work, they just need a bit of adjustment. When they don't, and if the breakup hurts you, you have to then put up with watching every day as the person you fancied lives out their new life. That means watching them giggling on the phone to new boyf, etc etc. It's horrible. Avoid, avoid.
posted by bonaldi at 1:36 PM on May 6, 2005


You should only proceed if you're prepared to quit if things go bad.

I found that spending 24/7 (or 24/5) together was tough because you are generating very little to talk about that your partner doesn't already know about. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and all that.
posted by Four Flavors at 4:37 PM on May 6, 2005


"Don't put your penis in the payroll" Not exactly PC these days...
posted by prentiz at 4:42 PM on May 6, 2005


Office relationships are fun at first sneaking around in various small rooms etc, but my experience turned out badly. I ended up slapping him (outside of work) when I found out he was cheating (long messy story). Things got really awkward after that because we worked very closely and I ended up leaving the company because I couldn't stand working with him. The good thing was that I found out from the bosses I'd actually hurt him when I slapped him! (only time I've ever slapped someone btw and I'm now sworn off office relationships).

Having now been on the managerial side of things in my current job (for only just a week), it has now opened my eyes in our meetings where the latest office relationship is met with a good old gossip. There is certainly no disapproval of the relationship, but then I work in an environment where there are several adulterous relationships going on and this current one is small fry!

I've also worked for companies where relationships are frowned upon and if they do exist were made to work in separate departments.

Go for it, enjoy it - but be prepared for the possible fall out.
posted by floanna at 5:05 PM on May 6, 2005


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