Office romance: do’s and don’ts

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By SC Chua for Yahoo! Southeast Asia

Let's face it — love can take place in the least unexpected places. And sometimes, this can mean by the photo-copying machine at work! Once a work taboo, office romances are now becoming more commonplace, and in some settings, acceptable as well. But ask yourself this: Is the cutie from Finance worth it, especially when some office romances have proven to be detrimental to a career?

The thing with office romances is that they can be trickier than others. What will your colleagues think? Will you and your partner keep that lover's spat out of the office space? Will you be able to handle criticism from your partner, especially if he is your senior at work? Also, what happens when you break up? Will you be able to handle seeing your ex 9 to 5, Mondays to Fridays?

But before you think all office romances are doomed to begin with, some have successfully gone from boardroom to marriage. Also, there can be plenty of advantages to office romances, says counselling psychologist and former lawyer Charis Wong. "You get to see the person on a daily basis, so there is plenty of opportunity to get to know the person both in a more serious environment (through working on similar projects) or on a social basis (lunch and office parties). You get to know how the person works in a team, relate to his colleagues, what kind of worker he is, and how he operates under stress. You don't get this rich information when socialising at a club or a bar!"

But like most relationships, the trick to making your office romance work is knowing your way around it. So here are a few do's and don'ts for you to consider when in an office romance.


Keep it professional
Be discreet if you are seeing a colleague; you don't have to flaunt the fact that you are a couple by holding hands/smooching/being lovey dovey in the office. You may think otherwise but your colleagues are watching and would probably pick up that the two of you are dating (if you've not announced it yet) and by keeping it discreet allows you to appear professional still at your job.

Be careful who you tell
Speaking of colleagues, it might be best to tell only a few close colleagues about your office romance rather than send an e-mail blast to The last thing you need is for people to gossip about the two of you as well as base their judgment on your work performance because of the office romance when it clearly has nothing to do with it.

Know the rules
Some companies are fine with office romances; some not so much. There are no specific laws to prevent office romances but your company might have its own policy. For example, some companies argue that office relationships disrupt the office environment and may require one of you to either change departments or even quit altogether. So depending on how serious things are, you might want to bring it up with HR to see if there is an issue or not.

Be diplomatic when things don't go well
Your boss and colleagues are not interested if things don't go well with you and Jim from Finance. The office is not a place to air your dirty laundry or for you to have an all-out screaming match with your partner. Leave the relationship drama at home. Also, be an adult if things are over between the two of you, especially if he is dating someone new from the same office (it happens!). Last thing you want is to be known as the spiteful ex and have it impact your work performance.


Even think about being adventurous
You know what we are talking about. The office is a no-zone-whatsoever when it comes to sexual romps regardless of what day or what time it is. Do you really want to be caught in an uncompromising position at the office pantry and be the news the next day?

Date the boss
"The most serious repercussion [of an office romance] comes with dating someone who is your direct superior or your subordinate... For example, you may get the promotion you think you really deserve, but it will be natural for your colleagues to wonder whether you earned cookie points by dating the boss. Or if you are the one dating your direct subordiate, then you risk being accused for office sexual harassment," says Wong. Her advice? Stay away from a boss/subordinate relationship. It will never look good in anyone's eyes.

Spend all day romancing
You are at work for one thing — to work. "Romance in the office can be a real distraction from your wok, if you are not careful," advises Wong. Not to flirt, send romantic e-mails (definitely not over the office e-mail system) or meet up at the coffee machine every 30 minutes! You can do all of the above (minus the office e-mail) after work. "There is also danger of becoming an island in your office and losing out on the opportunity to get to know your other colleagues because you are spending all your lunch hours with your office sweetheart," she says.