Forbidden Love? Or not….

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Cupid struck you this February? It can be difficult to navigate the workplace when romance is in the air. Typically there is a negative stigma attached to ‘Office Romances”.  But is it really taboo?  In 2013, Careerbuilder cited 38% of employees as having office place romances, and in 2014, Vault.com’s 2014 Office Romance Survey, cited a whopping 56% of professionals engaging in some kind of office affair.

There are clear advantages to getting to know someone at the workplace, proximity and common goals making it easy to get to know someone’s habits and values. But if the relationship goes south, those same advantages can quickly become the elements of a hostile work environment. If you are willing to take the risk, here are a few suggestions to keep your office romance professional.

Check Your Company Handbook

Some companies have strict dating guidelines, while others do not have any policies at all. Your HR department may even require you and your partner to sign a disclosure statement or contract before engaging in a relationship. These contracts ensure the relationship is consensual and inform participants of the sexual harassment policies of the company. The employer is then aware of the relationship, and is able to prepare if things end poorly. Other policies might specify who is an acceptable dating option and who is not. For example, you might be able to date someone from another department, but not someone who is a direct report or member of your team.

Set Ground Rules With Your Partner

Regardless of your company’s guidelines, it is always good to set your own rules together. Discuss acceptable behaviors in the workplace and behavior if the relationship ends. Limit flirtatious behavior at work, and make sure that all communications pertaining to your relationship are done through private platforms. You should both consider carefully who to tell about the relationship, and be wary about starting gossip. Gossip is detrimental to the workplace, and negative perceptions of office romance differ for men and woman. One study found that women are more often the subject of gossip, and according to Forbes.com, women tend to be perceived as engaging in a workplace romance to get ahead more than men. Lastly, abstain from jealous reactions to your partner’s interactions with other coworkers. Remember that you are both professionals and friendships with other employees are inevitable.

Weigh the Risks

Before you ask that special someone out, here are a few questions to consider:

Are you in the same department together?

Are there power distances between you? (Dating your superior is risky!)

Are there complications with other coworkers? (Were there prior romances?)

Would your coworkers generally support a relationship?

Is there a possibility the two of you would be competing for the same position in the future?

Getting involved with a coworker is risky, and the dangers are evident. But regardless of the possible negative outcome, Vault.com claims that 60-70% of men and women report that they would be willing to engage in a workplace romance again. Careers and relationships are both important elements of a fulfilling life, and if you can navigate both successfully, this Valentine’s day could be the start of a budding romance with your office sweetheart.