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Top 5 Keys to a Happy Office Romance

By Marty Nemko

The experts can warn you ‘til they’re blue in the face: “Beware of office romances,” and still, there s/he is: Sooooh cute. Such chemistry. Sooooh nice. This could be the love of your life. (Or at least the romance of your week.) You don’t want to Just Say No. Are you at grave risk of ending up fired, sued, or both? No guarantees, but here are my top five ways to maximize your chances of enjoying a workplace romance and surviving to tell the tale.

#5. Be honest with your prospective partner. If you’re only looking for a quick fling, don’t make long-term-relationship noises in your efforts to seduce. That candor is always important, but especially so in the workplace. If you imply a possible wedding-bell future, and then after a hot date or two, you suddenly cool off, let alone start flirting with another officemate, you’re asking for big-time reprisals. Remember the old saw, “Love hath no fury like a woman (or a man?) scorned.”?

#4. Think twice before starting a relationship with your boss. In some workplaces, that’s strictly verboten, but even if it’s permissible, beware. If later, you dump your boss, s/he may retaliate. For example, “I need you to do this extra work…Sorry, I can’t let you take an extra 15 minutes for lunch. …No, I won’t give you any extra resources.” The opportunities for torturing you are endless.

In fairness, sometimes a relationship with a boss can yield special privileges—“How did he get the corner office?” Even if the boss decides to end the relationship, the boss may give you a promotion or other perk to reduce the risk of your filing a grievance. One study found that 64% of women who had a romantic relationship with their boss reported that, as a result, their work situation improved.

#3. Think 10 times before starting a relationship with your supervisee. That’s risky even if the relationship is working well. For example, your honey/supervisee begs for a plum assignment, which from a business perspective, you believe should go to someone else, yet you feel forced to say yes to your snookums. And if you break up the relationship, you’re really in danger—s/he could claim abuse of the power imbalance between the two of you. You could lose your job and gain a subpoena.

#2. Keep it quiet. I know, I know, when you’re in love, it’s tempting to tell everyone in the office. Mistake. From then on, the two of you will be under the microscope. It’s dangerous even if the two of you are just peers. For example, if you’re seen helping your sweetie out with work, someone else who also needs your help may complain to your boss that you’re playing favorites.

But you protest, “The chemistry between us is so obvious that everyone already knows we’re having a relationship.” Chances are many co-workers don’t know—they’re wrapped up in themselves; they’re not monitoring the vibes between every pair of people that walk by. Other co-workers may suspect but can’t be sure. But confirm your relationship to just one person, and chances are, the whole office will know within 24 hours. And it takes just one disgruntled co-worker to make your life miserable. Until it’s time to send the wedding invitations, keep the relationship to yourselves.

#1. Have fun

Actually, the office is a pretty darn good place to meet a romantic partner. Unlike in a bar, where you pick mainly on impulse and an alcohol-impaired chat, at work you get to see more of what a person is really like. So, you’re more likely to find your valentine at the office water cooler than at a barstool.

Just follow the above rules to reduce your risk and then focus on having a great time. Being in love is wonderful.

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