The unwritten rules followed in most workplaces mean that politeness and lack of overfamiliarity to colleagues is the norm. Relationships at work, especially when viewed from the perspective of status, need to be kept cordial in order to create a harmonious workplace.
Sounds fine, but when the crush of your life walks into the cubicle next to you, can the opportunity be passed up?
A Valentine’s Day survey by Careerbuilder.com revealed that 40% of workers have had an office romance. Thirty-one percent of these went on to marry the person they met at work. Good odds so far, but what are the pitfalls of asking out a colleague?
Romantic rejection by a co-worker
Considering the wheels of office life move smoothly through mutual politeness and vague well-mannered interest in colleague’s home-lives, letting somebody know that you fancy her can be very very hard to do without making her and the rest of the office uncomfortable.
Many workplaces have policies in place about dating. The bottom line is to discourage enmity between ex-partners and distractions from work by dating couples. If advances are rebuffed, it makes for a hostile working environment.
Carole Jahme, an evolutionary agony aunt for “Ask Carole” at the Guardian newspaper, points out that women’s female intuition is quite accurate at telling if a co-worker is attracted to them. She says that if contemplating asking a girl out, men should take into account their status at work. A boss could be seen to be abusing his station by asking out a woman who is his work inferior.
Mutual attraction in the workplace
The safest way of avoiding potential sexual harassment lawsuits and also getting the woman/man of your dreams is to make sure that the object of your affections likes you back. This is notoriously hard for men, especially if the woman is naturally friendly and chatty. Perhaps the best way is to approach the girl outside of work, in a situation where office status is not obviously at work and back off instantly the second she says the feelings aren’t reciprocated.
If all else fails and the signals are so confusing you don’t know what to do – perhaps the only rational thing to do is wait and see if she asks you out.
If she likes you back then the stage is set for an office romance.
Successful dating in an office setting
Keep it discreet. The Careerbuilder.com survey also found that seven percent of respondents had left a job due to an office romance spilling over into their work lives. Despite 72% of the surveyed workers saying they didn’t keep their relationship secret, interpersonal rivalries and perceived favouritism for one half of a couple can adversely affect workplace morale.