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Be careful when dating co-worker

Q. I work in a large office setting and have recently found myself interested in one of my colleagues. I've always been wary of dating people from work, but I'm a single mother in my 40s now, out of the bar scene, and I've had the same social circle for years. I'm just not meeting people outside of the office, and I'm wondering if you have any advice about dating co-workers.

-- B.D. - Ken-Ton

A. I understand the appeal of dating a co-worker: We spend the majority of our days at work, and it's an easy way to meet people and make friends, especially in a large office setting. Plus, if two people work in the same place, they probably don't live very far apart from one another, they may be in similar financial situations, and often share common interests.

I believe, however, that the risks greatly outweigh the benefits. But if you're going that route regardless, there are a number of things to consider and rules to follow, and you should proceed with extreme caution.

As a rule, companies tend to frown upon romantic relationships in the office. There are a lot of scenarios where an employee may be using someone else to move up the career ladder, instances of extramarital affairs, and issues with sexual harassment policies.

It's important to know your company's policy on dating, and also on sexual harassment.

It's also best to keep any dating or office relationships under wraps, because not only is it respectful of your co-workers, and good manners, but office gossip can be cruel and brutal. That means no public displays of affection or use of pet names in the office.

Be careful not to let the new relationship affect your job performance. You will be expected to perform tasks in the same way as you did before, maintain and voice your opinions, and conduct yourself professionally as usual, regardless of your new partner's feelings and ideas. This includes leaving relationship issues at home, where they belong.

You should discuss, as a couple, a plan for how you will handle certain issues at work. One of you may have to transfer to a different department, or your superiors could respond unfavorably to the relationship.

To keep the new relationship going, it's important to leave work at the workplace. You already work together all day, the last thing that should be talked about during leisure time is your job.

In the event of a breakup with a co-worker, it's imperative to behave professionally and conduct yourself in a mature manner. That means no sabotage of his work space, no bad-mouthing, and no interference if he starts seeing someone else at work.

This is probably the biggest hurdle people face when dating colleagues, and something to strongly keep in mind.

After a nonwork breakup, people can distance themselves and move on without having to face each other day in and day out. It can be a daunting task to forget the memories of the good times in your relationship, as well as the expectations you had for the future.

There are definitely plenty of office relationships that last, but when they don't it's much more difficult to let it go.

Patti Novak owns Buffalo Niagara Introductions. Please e-mail questions to and include your initials and hometown.

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