Love in the workplace
It's Working employment column
Lots of people meet their soulmates at work -- a Vault.com survey reported that more than 50 percent of couples met that way. But there are some important rules to keep in mind, if you're thinking about dating the person in the next cubicle or down the hall.
First, you can't date someone who works for you, and you can't date your boss -- that's a great way to create a big problem for yourself and your employer. Sexual harassment claims arise that way, even if the relationship is completely consensual. If you want to date someone at work, make sure that person has no say in any of your employment-related decisions, and vice versa.
Apart from that, most companies won't mind if you date one of your co-workers, as long as you both are professional about it. But there are exceptions. Some companies still cling to the old anti-nepotism policies that forbid any non-work-related relationships at work. So lookÂ before you leap, and check out your company's employee handbook if you're not certain of the rules.
Of course, it won't do to send romantic e-mails in the office or to offer PDAs (public displays of affection) in the workplace. Save that for after work. It's hard enough on your colleagues to deal with two workmates making goo-goo eyes at one another, without also having to deal with hallways smooches and squeezes and footsie under the conference table. That kind of thing is out of bounds, whether you work at IBM or Burger King. Employers have enough issues to deal with without having to referee the activities of employees who become smitten with one another.
An important issue is how and when to notify your boss of a workplace romance. It is imperative to do this, because you don't want the boss to be caught unaware when s/he hears about the workplace twosome from a third party. So, at a time when your boss is available for a chat, walk into his or her office or workspace (walk in together) and say "Joe, Sarah and I just wanted to let you know what we've been seeing one another socially. We figured that you would want to hear that from us, versus someone else."
If you are so young that the phrase "seeing one another socially" would have trouble making its way past your lips, you can say "dating" instead.
If you and Sarah work for two different people, synchronize your conversations so that one boss doesn't hear the news ahead of the other and spill the beans before you get to make your announcement.
One more tip: Don't insult your coworkers by pretending that there's nothing between you and Sarah when there is -- that's even more annoying than having to work around the lovestruck duo in the first place. If they ask you, "Are you and Sarah a couple?" and if you are, the answer is "Yes." No details are necessary.
The workplace is for work -- although it can be a mighty good place to meet your one-and-only, too. I met my husband at work and things seem to be working out pretty well for us, if our five kids are any indication. Just keep your workplace romance professional and discreet, and follow the essential rule for workplace sweethearts: No shop talk after hours!
Liz Ryan is a former Fortune 500 VP, a 25-year HR veteran and an expert on careers and the new millennium workplace. An award-winning entrepreneur and workplace adviser, Ryan is author of "Happy About Online Networking" and founder of the global online community www.AskLizRyan.com. E-mail Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.