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Top Tips for Workplace Dating

By Marty Nemko

Disclosure: I’m not unbiased on office romances--I met my wife at work. And I think that’s the way to go: Before getting involved, I got to check her in a real-life situation rather than, for example, an alcohol-soaked one.

I’m far from the only fan of finding love at work. Fifty eight percent of the 693 respondents to’s 2006 Office Romance survey said they had been in an office romance[1], up from 52 percent two years ago. With people spending ever more time at work, that’s no surprise.

Alas, there are ever more minefields. The definition of sexual harassment is ever broadening and employers are ever more wary of sexual discrimination lawsuits. The Vault survey found that 21 percent of employers (probably mostly large corporations) now have dating policies up from 17 percent just a year ago.

Here’s how to increase your chances of enjoying romance in the workplace without getting bitten by something worse than the love bug.

Think twice about a relationship with your supervisor. How would you feel if you and your boss/lover had a blowup last night and this morning had to work together? Or if suspicious coworkers wondered how you earned your promotion? The last thing you want is a reputation as a gold digger trying to sleep your way to the top.

Think ten times before getting involved with your supervisee. Even if it doesn’t violate company policy, problems abound from the start. Your supervisee may agree to go out with you only for fear of hurting their career if they say no. Is that the basis on which you want a date? And if things go wrong, oy! The supervisee often claims the boss abused the power relationship, which can cost you your job, and even if you dodge that bullet, it won’t be fun having to supervise your ex-lover. And just imagine if you wanted to fire him or her?

Don’t create false expectations. If you’re looking for a one-night stand, in your attempt to seduce, don’t make noises about craving a long-term relationship.

Unless company policy prohibits it, keep your relationship secret as long as possible. Otherwise, coworkers will scrutinize the two of you for any hint that you’re playing favorites.

Consider signing an office romance “pre-nup.” Here’s a sample:

We will each make best efforts to:

• Keep secret our relationship until we both agree it’s okay to go public.

• In work matters, treat each other as we would other co-workers.

• Not retaliate if we break up.

_________________ ________________

Partner 1 Partner 2

Of course, that isn’t legally binding, but it’s helpful to set up ground rules up front, when you’re both feeling lovey-dovey.

A few employers have drawn up far more legalistic, highly unromantic love contracts to be filed with the employer. These are designed to minimize the likelihood of running afoul of company policies and sexual harassment and sex discrimination laws. Click HERE for an example.

Stay professional. Make every effort to treat your lover as you would any other employee. And no smoochy emails from the office--Remember, management can snoop. And, of course, try to resist the temptation to dive into the supply closet. All the above are easier said than done. For example, 28 percent of respondents to the Vault survey admitted to having had a tryst in the office, up from 23 percent last year.

Give each other space. If you’re together at and outside work, things can get stifling. Allow time apart. Bonus: Maintaining outside interests mean that if you break up, you’ll still have a life.

Have fun!

Despite these strictures, an office romance can be fun and more. I speak from personal experience

[1] Respondents to such a survey are more likely than average to have had an office romance, so the actual percentage is probably lower.

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