Let’s face it, especially as we get older, much of our time revolves around our careers. We spend most of our days, during most of the week, at our workplace. Therefor you spend a lot of time with the people you work with, and there’s a certain familiarity that builds. Often that can turn into lasting friendship. And sometimes you may find yourself wanting to extend your friendship with a particular co-worker, and see if there’s any possibility for romance.
So if you find yourself in that situation, here is my free advice for how to proceed with dating a co-worker:
Yeah, no, sorry, but I say don’t do it.
And yes, I know, this is the part where everyone wants to chime in and tell me about that couple they know who met at work and are now happily married with 15 kids. Blah blah blah. Yeah, I know it can happen. In fact, my mother and stepfather are one of those couples (I’ll get back to that), so I know it CAN work sometimes. I just think that as a general rule it’s best to avoid it.
In my humble opinion, the potential problems that could arise if things go wrong in your relationship, is generally not worth risk. I remember discussing this a couple of years back with some young man on Reddit, who was considering asking a coworker out. He said he wasn’t worried because all of his previous relationships ended well, and he remained friends with all of his exes. As he put it, he was a “good breaker-upper,” so he didn’t worry about that.
If I recall correctly, this fellow was 20 years old, so obviously he had vast adult relationship experiences to base this on.
Now as most of adults do know, sometimes relationships end badly, and it’s not always something that’s under your control. Think back to the last time you got truly dumped, when someone figuratively ripped your heart out of your chest, threw it down to the ground, and then stomped all over it. Remember how that felt?
Now imagine you had to work with that person and see them every day right after that? That’s not exactly the kind of thing that’s going to motivate you to get out of bed in the morning, is it?
Whether you’re angry or sad, imagine seeing them, and having those memories flooding your brain every time you do, especially if they look like they’re getting along just fine without you? How’s that going to feel? Heck, what if they dumped you for another co-worker, and now you have to see the two of them together everyday?
Heck, even if you’re the one who did the dumping, and tried to be amicable about it, there’s no guarantee that the other person will act accordingly. I’m sure most of you reading this (again, at least those of a certain age) have at least one experience where the other person had a hard time taking no for answer. They kept trying to call you, email you, beg for another chance, try to convince you to try again, just won’t leave you alone. So you may have had to change your phone number, or email, or block them from social media, etc, until they finally gave up. But what if you work with them? Now you can’t just ignore them, and who knows what trouble they may try to cause at work to get back at you?
Yes, these probably are worst case scenarios, but, well, that is what I do best.
And this doesn’t even take into account the fact that it could be the job itself which ends up causing the break-up, or at least frictions in your relationship. It depends on what kind of job you have, of course. But there’s a reason there’s the saying “don’t mix business with pleasure.” One can easily impact the other. What if one of you gets promoted over the other (or if there’s already that power-imbalance when you start dating, that’s just asking for trouble), or get a bigger raise or bonus for the same job? And then there’s things like dealing with potential office gossip about your relationship. Or just the stress of spending so much time together. After working with someone for 8 hours, maybe you just want to go home and relax (and forget about your day at work), not plan to go out and spend more time together after work. A little absence makes the heart grow fonder, as the other saying goes.
I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.
I do have some exceptions to the rule. First, if it’s job you don’t particularly care about, or need. Something temporary, part-time, whatever. Something that you could walk away from, if you wanted to. Like, you’re young and working at a Fast Food place after school, or some kind of retail job, a grocery store, something that you’re not planning to stick with for a long time, then go ahead, if you want to date your fellow cashier, take the chance. I’m more talking about jobs that are your career, or that you at least count on to pay your bills, and finding another similar job would not be easy. That’s when you don’t want to take the risk.
I can also let it slide if you work for a big enough organization where you and the other person don’t have to work closely together. The further apart the better. Different departments, different locations. The kind of job where if either of you wanted to avoid the other, you could do it without it negatively affecting your jobs. Then it might be worth the risk. This was the situation with my mother and stepfather. My stepfather was a policeman, my mother a police dispatcher (both are retired now). So they knew each other through work, but didn’t work closely. That makes a difference.
And, of course, this is all provided that you’ve checked with your HR department, or equivalent, to make sure there are no official rules against employees dating. If it is, then everything else is moot. Just forget it.