Valentine Hangover? 10 Tips to Avoid Office Romance Regret

Certainly Valentine’s Day gets us all a little more in the mood for love. Maybe you’re a hopeless romantic like this guy who is so madly in love that he proposed publicly and for the world to see by writing the post Stacy Green, Will You Marry Me? Lucky for him, Stacy said yes (at least according to her Twitter feed)…

That being said, we know that love doesn’t always end like a fairy tale. And if you fall for someone at the office, you now have to navigate a new level of complexity to what is already a complicated thing.

So in the spirit of romance that hopefully hasn’t worn off just yet…(February 15th always has a special place in my heart with 50% off candy at the drug store)…here are 10 Tips to help you avoid regret in an office romance.

10. Don’t date your boss: This isn’t really an interoffice romance…this is a completely inappropriate work relationship. The relationship can lead to serious questions of integrity, sexual harassment, unfair treatment and an abuse of power.
9. Don’t date anyone who reports to you: If you are the one in charge, please don’t tell yourself that you’ll be different from the rest. No matter how you behave, you are opening yourself up to tremendous professional risk and an HR nightmare.
8. Don’t fight in the office: From saran wrapping desks and throwing staplers to angry emails and nasty looks in the elevator, your romantic turmoil should never be known by the people you work with.
7. No pet names at the office: As much as you think The Honey Pumpkin Vice President of Cuddling is a professional spin on a pet name, it’s not…
6. No PDA at the office: Don’t play footsie under the table. Don’t hold hands as you walk to lunch. I hope it is obvious that public displays of affection do not belong in the workplace.
5. No PDA at the office: Not a typo. I’m talking about private displays of affection. Even if you think no one can see you, keep the physical affection completely out of the workplace.
4. No over-the-top gestures: No cards that play music, no flowers, no balloons. You’ll just be tempted to listen to your card over and over again…and no one wants to hear “Save The Best for Last” every time you want to sneak a read of the sweet note in the card.
3. Don’t tell the details (good or bad): Even if things are going well, keep the details to yourself. And if things aren’t going well, when you badmouth your partner you are now also badmouthing a co-worker. This puts you right in the middle of office gossip, and that is never a good thing.
2. Know the rules: Even if you follow these tips, you need to know and follow the HR policy at your office. HR policies exist because people do fall in love at work. Most of the time there will be a way for you to follow the rules and keep your romance alive.
1. Are you truly in love?: If you’re not and you know it isn’t going anywhere, you might consider breaking it off and avoiding the drama associated with an office romance. But, if you can say “yes,” it should be worth the trouble of following a few basic rules! :)

2 thoughts on “Valentine Hangover? 10 Tips to Avoid Office Romance Regret

  1. About 28 years ago, I hired a smart, attractive, tough young woman. A few months later, my business partner at the time essentially dared me to ask our employee out on a date. Neither of us thought there was anything taboo in this. The notion of “sexual harassment,” at least as a legal principle, had yet to be invented.

    So, I asked my employee on a non-date date: drinks after work. We hit it off. As we began dating, we both made it perfectly clear that we did not want to get married. Not only did we not want to get married to each other, we didn’t want to get married to anyone; we did not believe in the institution. Well, one thing led to another and now we find ourselves happily married to each other for over 25 years!

    I tell folks, jokingly, that I married her to avoid the sexual harassment lawsuit. Fortunately, though, sexual harassment was not an established, or at least well-known, legal principle at the time we started dating. If I had known about it, I never would have asked my employee out, and I would have missed connecting with my soulmate.

    By the way, my former business partner also dated an employee. They also got married and are also in the process of living happily-ever-after.

    This is my long way of saying that office romances can work out very well. Yes, they are certainly much more dangerous today than they were nearly 30 years ago. But, they can still be enormously rewarding. The key today is to be very careful. Your set of rules is a good place to start. If one violates Rules 9 and 10, the other rules become even more important.

    Thanks for the terrific Valentine’s post.

  2. Michael,
    Thank you for sharing such an amazing story! It is incredibly that both you and your business partner met your wives through an office romance.
    Wishing you and yours another 25 years of love and happiness!