One of the unpaid yet potentially awesome benefits of working in a vibrant, growing company is the access to a plethora of other young, smart and talented people. When that dynamic exists, it allows ample opportunities to build strong friendships, partnerships, and even romantic relationships to grow and thrive. It can also provide a platform for “hook up central.” Today, let’s focus on that.
Companies often do their best to keep their place of business as professional as possible, including “no dating policies” to keep things stable. Good intent, but let’s keep it real. Given that 36% of people admit to having hooked up with a co-worker, this strategy is doomed to fail. Why? Simple. When you spend more hours at the office than you do at home with a group of intelligent, like minded people in your dating demographic, sparks are bound to fly whether there is a policy in place or not. Note to companies: don’t try to stop it. Forcing people to sneak around and lie is so much worse. Rather, create some simple guidelines that might accomplish what you are after. For example: no dating anyone in your reporting chain, executives can’t date anyone, etc. You get the point.
For employees, however, that doesn’t suggest you should treat this situation lightly. You are still at WORK. Contemplating a relationship - or hookup - with a co-worker? Here are a few pointers to avoid your fantasy hook up turning into a career nightmare.
SHARE A CONNECTION OUTSIDE OF WORK
It’s one thing to work with someone and feel the sparks fly partnering on a deadline or crossing paths at the coffee machine every morning. Sharing work in common is great; but if you don’t have any mutual interests outside of work, it can be short lived.
Smart move: If you think you really connect with someone from the office, invest in getting to know each other outside of the building before you agree to date. If something is there, awesome. If a true connection doesn’t exist, you just saved yourselves a whole lot of office awkwardness.
THINK IT THROUGH
It’s easy to get caught up in the romance of someone new and exciting in your life. When that occurs in the “real world,” you have the benefit of being able to bypass the person should the relationship go south. In the workplace, not so much. Before you jump right in, stop and consider what happens if things don’t work out. Will you still be able work together? Will this affect your career in a negative way?
Smart move: Nobody ever enters a situation like this considering “what’s the worst that can happen?” Be the person who does think that through before you move forward.
WHEN YOU ARE AT WORK, ACT LIKE IT
Work is not the place to put your personal life on display. Meaning, if you are dating someone in the office, behave in your normal manner. Go to lunch with your work friends. Tackle your daily project work. So many people attempt to “hide” their new relationship by sneaking around, entering the building two minutes apart, disappearing for “coffee” by themselves at odd times. Resist the urge.
Smart move: You are at work to work, and you want to be known as the person creating incredible impact to your organization...not part of that couple who thinks they are pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes with their clandestine tryst. Your co-workers know. They always know.
DON’T TREAT A HOOK UP LIKE A RELATIONSHIP
Say you had a little too much to drink at the company summer party, and you ended up summoning enough courage to approach that hot co-worker you’ve been lusting over for the last three months. Say you hit the after party together, and ultimately “connect” after everyone has parted ways for the evening. Awesome, right? Umm, only if you two are on the same page about what happens next. Maybe to one of you it was just a drunken hookup. Perhaps to the other it was the start of a serious relationship. One of you wants to forget it ever happened. The other is busy updating their relationship status on Facebook.
Smart move: If you are adult enough to get yourself into that situation, you are adult enough to talk through what happens next. Have a conversation, and get on the same page. Sure that might be awkward; but it’s going to be a heck of lot worse when you get to the office on Monday with different agendas.
WHO AND WHEN TO TELL
Your personal life is your personal life. Even if you have close friends at the office, suppress the urge to share the gory details about your office romance with them. If you are on the same team, this is even more critical. Even if your colleagues are excited for you, you risk making things super awkward for them if you and your paramour are behaving like new lovers in the office. And if your fling becomes a real thing? Come clean. Lying never gets you anywhere. And it’s not just your colleagues who know; news about office romances spreads quickly. Especially if it involves senior members of the team or married people.
Smart move: If your fling morphs into a legit romance, own it. Whichever is the more senior of you should give a heads up to the boss. Yup, a little uncomfortable for sure. However, coming forward with the information shows responsibility and a willingness to be transparent. By taking accountability for your relationship, you put both of you in a far better position to partner with your boss/company to help make it work for everyone.
And finally, though I shouldn’t need to say it, do your best to avoid one night stands and married people. It typically results in a complete mess. Is that really worth jeopardizing your career for? Think with your head, my friends.