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Dating a Coworker: Can It Work for You?

Anna Hennings

July 22, 2009

As many red flags as the office romance waves, it actually can make a lot of sense. Spending a good chunk of our waking hours around the same people naturally allows us to get to know them better and become more comfortable talking, joking, laughing — maybe even flirting.

But when you date someone in your office, it can become more and more difficult to leave your relationship drama at home where it belongs. Why? Because it follows you on your commute. And what if steamy encounters of undeniable chemistry tempt you out of your super-professional comfort zone … and into the HR department for a talk about the office’s dating policy? Keeping work professional and keeping what’s personal exciting is something most sensible women opt not to put on their to-do list.

But there’s no denying that it can happen. So here are the red flags to remember before making your move, and how to handle it once (or if!) you do.

Caution Tape

As Peter Pearson, a psychologist specializing in couples therapy, puts it, dating a coworker is like “walking through a minefield with big clown shoes.” Why? Because so often we jump freely and willingly into a relationship without considering all the consequences. Sound familiar? I thought so. This can be especially hard if this person is a superior or someone with whom we work closely or regularly.

“If the focus of your desires is in your line of authority, such as your boss or your subordinate, you’re on very risky ground,” says Jerry Talley, a former Stanford professor and therapist. “People can lose jobs and get sued. Best to keep your feelings to yourself.”

Mixing work and play, and not keeping the separation between our individual lives and our dating lives that we’re used to, can pose relationship-ending dangers at the best of times. It’s obviously worse if you’re interested in someone with whom you work on a daily or regular basis. But even if they are in a separate department or on a different floor, making sure you’re not bringing your relationship with you to work each day adds even more stress. So you have to decide: Is all the fuss and bother worth it to you?

“If the person is a coworker, are you prepared to have them as an ex-lover, working on projects, sitting in meetings?,” Talley mentions.

Well, think about it. Are you?

Next Page: The Excitement Factor →


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