Flirting With Office Romance?


Better watch out! Romance at the workplace can backfire big time if you’re not careful—and even if you are.

We spend so much time at the office these days, working closely with others and hanging out after hours, that it’s really no surprise when alliances form, break down and reform. People are people, after all.

But once you cross that line from co-worker friendship to budding relationship, you need to take a moment to think before you knock yourself off the career ladder. Our Twitter #careerchat focused on the often unwritten rules of dating co-workers. If you’re bound and determined to play with fire, you’d better prepare for potential burns.

Crowd takeaways:

  • bizMebizgal: The reality is that you spend most of your time with co-workers, things are going to happen, just always be professional.
  • BillBoorman: Be a grown up is the policy you should have, and no office canoodling.
  • CaSuPe15: It’s one thing to have an office crush, it’s another thing to act on it.
  • Jill_Perlberg:  Think long & hard about if this is even territory you want to get into. Once you flirt back or acknowledge it, you’re in.
  • PaigeHolden: Avoid at all costs if you are serious about your career and long-term prospects at the company.
  • BillBoorman:  If colleagues meet it is always company time in the eyes of the law and the business. Lunch, happy hour, bar, weekend, it’s all company time.


Job seeker? Just want to get ahead in your career?

Join the Twitter #careerchat Tuesdays @ 12 PM CT to talk about everything from friending your boss on Facebook to personal branding to how to get a call back from recruiter.

Q1: You pick up on a hint of flirting from your co-worker or boss. What do you do?

  • bizMebizgal:  Before you move in the direction of flirting, know the other person’s situation:  married, not, girlfriend not, boyfriend not
  • CaSuPe15: I’d wait until it happened a second time before bringing it up with that coworker. You may have misunderstood the first time
  • Jill_Perlberg: Ask yourself if you are imagining things. Is the other person just a natural flirt, be careful of making assumptions
  • bizMebizgal: pple have flirtatious characteristics but not flirting. Must know the difference bc it can be uncomfortable for everyone .
  • Jill_Perlberg: If you think it’s truly flirting, there’s whole lot of Q’s to ask yourself. Do you like them? Is your job/career worth it?
  • MyPath_MP: At some point it’s also going to come down to office policy/unspoken rules
  • Jelfster: These can differ markedly from company to company.
    • MyPath_MP: True. Some companies are very strict. Wonder if the stricter ones have more underground relationships
    • Jelfster: I’m sure that’s the case. I wonder if strict policies make a difference or not. I suspect not.
  • Jill_Perlberg: If you are new to a company, you should observe office policy/culture. Some companies aren’t ok with work rel’ships
  • CaSuPe15: Does it matter if you work in different departments?
    • bizMebizgal: It is tough because even if u work in different departments, drama still spills over the “walls” & can be distracting.
    • MyPath_MP: It also helps you not get too distracted from your job if you can’t see the person all day.
  • Jill_Perlberg: My company has a conflict of interest policy that family members can’t report to each other. If you’re dating, that applies too
  • bizMebizgal: If you are dating within company territory, never bring personal issues between the 2 of you to work.
  • LesleyMWeiss:  I worked at one place where public relationships often ended with one of the positions being eliminated in a restructuring.
    • MyPath_MP: Was it the man or the woman who tended to get the axe? Just wondering about perceptions.
      • LesleyMWeiss:  One of each. The guy actually retired early. The woman had her position eliminated. Both got nice severance.
        • MyPath_MP: Makes me think they could have just kept them on since they paid out severance.
          • LesleyMWeiss: Really, really strict anti-nepotism policy.
  • bizMebizgal: I stay away from people I work with, lots more fish in the sea to catch. Too sticky if it doesn’t go well.
    • Jelfster: Good pt. Doubt anyone actively plans to have an office romance…red flags go up but if the feelings are strong…
    • MyPath_MP: I’ve heard now that the gen-ys and millennials go into work already primed to deal with romance.
  • Jill_Perlberg: In college, I dated a co-worker at Best Buy. Diff. depts but still awkward even as a college student
  • Jill_Perlberg: Doesn’t matter the job, you’re there to work, conduct your romance off company time.
    • bizMebizgal: I definitely agree, my company pond is always closed due to E. Coli.
  • PaigeHolden: Yikes. Try to ignore the flirtation and get back to work.
    • MyPath_MP: Ha! That’s awesome. Sometimes people just don’t want to stay away from the flame though!
  • bizMebizgal: sometimes you just can’t, they might be super hott!! ha.


Q2: If you’re involved with a co-worker, do you need to tell your boss/company?

  • LesleyMWeiss: Does it depend on whether or not they are in your department?
  • Jill_Perlberg: Depends on company policy and reporting rel’ship at work.
    • bizMebizgal: I agree, don’t mention unless you absolutely have to. Don’t want that to get in the way of your performance.
  • buzzandrea: Yes. I had subordinates date, against company policy. The longer I didn’t know, the worse it was for me as their mgr.
    • bizMebizgal: I don’t think I want to know. Then in meetings I would be thinking about what they do on weekends & that is never good.
    • LesleyMWeiss: But once one person knows, it’s a pretty sure thing that soon everyone will. You want to control how the info spreads.
  • PaigeHolden: Yes, I think it’s important – especially if it’s a supervisor/supervisee situation
    • MyPath_MP: Great point! There’s a whole power play going on too, even if you don’t think it is.
  • Jill_Perlberg: I know of coworkers with benefits rather than a relationship, how’d you explain that one? Again, use some common sense?
  • MyPath_MP: If you don’t flaunt the romance IN the office, does it make it okay to have one?
    • HolmanMoving: There are more people to consider. People in office know. When it’s supervisor/visee, others may feel at a disadvantage.
      • Jill_Perlberg: So true. Now it gets into why someone was promoted and another wasn’t.
        • MyPath_MP: Excellent point: People will start wondering about favoritism
  • bizMebizgal: Office romance should be treated like the person does not work w/ u. Focus on the job. If u go to lunch, go somewhere else.
  • MyPath_MP: Just read stat that half of American workers will date someone at work & 1 in 5 of those will get hitched
  • CaSuPe15: Even if you can keep it professional in the office, mngrs may look at you different if you tell them
    • MyPath_MP: So the conventional wisdom might just be, don’t tell anyone! Of course the 1st C.W. might be: Don’t do it at all.
  • bizMebizgal: Dating in the office is the new!
    • Jill_Perlberg: Seriously, I think some people look at the office as a playground. Don’t mix business and pleasure.
  • BillBoorman:  Dating in the office is inevitable but has pitfalls. big problem when its reporting lines
    • bizMebizgal: Totally agree
    • CaSuPe15: I don’t think it’s inevitable…there are ways to avoid it, just be smart about where you look to meet people
  • bizMebizgal:  I spoke to college students and the only ?’s they asked were about office romance. How does it work???
  • Jelfster: In our office we have a loverlorn gal who fancies the photocopier. “One day, my prints will come,” I hear her sigh.”
  • BillBoorman: The problem is not the dating it’s the splitting up
    • Jill_Perlberg: agree. It’s all great until he/she spills the beans on your private life to the cafeteria.
    • MyPath_MP: You just may be right! How do you repair the work relationship, & how do you keep your dept from suffering w/you?
    • bizMebizgal: That is the worst part.
    • Jelfster:  Exactly, the friendship must be rock-solid to survive that. Can happen though.
  • BillBoorman:  I had a staff member who got divorced from Director husband. Tough times.


Q3: “I hooked up with a co-worker at happy hour. Now what?”

  • PaigeHolden:  Another reason not to date a coworker? Prevents a real break from the office, as well as an unbiased opinion from a confidante.
    • MyPath_MP: That’s excellent advice.
  • PaigeHolden: Pretend it didn’t happen?!
  • Kblennon: be prepared for some potential awkwardness
  • bizMebizgal: Work environments can be like high school, the rumor mill will have a field day if u chose a company happy hour to hook up.
  • Jill_Perlberg: Be prepared for snide comments&assumptions. People saw you get drunk &leave together. Now you have to face the music.
  • PaigeHolden: Playing dumb is the best defense! What do you mean we hooked up? That was Sally in Finance, not me! 🙂
  • bizMebizgal: Rule of thumb at company happy hour, no more than 2 drinks. If sparks are flying, agree to meet after the HH ALONE!!!
  • buzzandrea: Sorry folks, no matter what you have to take responsibility for yourself – pretending it didn’t happen won’t cut it.
  • PaigeHolden: No more than 2 drinks AND eat something!
    • Jill_Perlberg: The orange in the blue moon doesn’t count!
    • MyPath_MP: Go for the food, not for your co-worker!
    • PaigeHolden: You know, that mozzarella stick might just be more interesting. You never know.
    • CaSuPe15: haha! good advice
  • Jill_Perlberg: First rule, avoid it altogether. But if it happens, make sure it doesn’t happen again in front of your coworkers.
    • LesleyMWeiss: I think that would be much more difficult to manage than a romance! Probably best to avoid hook ups with coworkers.
  • BillBoorman: Be real. Hook ups will always happen. team enviroments and events create perfect circumstance
    • MyPath_MP: And we seem to be at work more than otherwise, it’s only natural to find common ground w/people there.
  • Jill_Perlberg: What if you’re one of the unfort. soles who was at the HH and on Monday, they try to talk to you about it?
    • MyPath_MP: Run. Far. Away.
    • bizMebizgal: I make a sprint to the bathroom, best not to get involved. Managers pick up on who is talking and who is not.
  • BillBoorman: It helps to have a policy on how you deal with it and are consistent
    • Jill_Perlberg: agree, but many smaller companies don’t have policies. That’s where I often see the boss/employee rel’ships
  • BillBoorman: A recent survey of 1100 found the most common meeting place for spouses was work or education
  • Jelfster: ‘The Office’: Guy says something lewd to co-worker. Her: “That’s sweet. Why don’t you put that to me in email?” Don’t do that!
    • MyPath_MP: Good point! Keep things off company time, property, and above all email.
  • bizMebizgal: You represent the company at all times, personal branding.
  • BillBoorman: you also have to apply rules consistently to the chiefs. When it happens best to talk about it quickly and set a few ground rules for both parties

Open Questions:

Jill_Perlberg: Anyone been in a office relationship? How did it start? What did you do?

  • bizMebizgal: I have experienced working at a new position and my boss was flirting with me. I was an intern, he was a manager.
  • LesleyMWeiss  I’ve never been, but I’ll soon be attending the wedding of a friend who met her fellow in the company carpool!
    • bizMebizgal: Love at first seat share!!
  • Jelfster: My bro-in-law and his wife met at work (psych hospital) Assume their eyes met lovingly over a straitjacket!!!

bizMebizgal: What happens when your family member works with you, starts an office romance when you know they are taken?

  • Jill_Perlberg: that’s when a come-to-jesus mtg is needed. And then stay clear, you don’t want your reputation to be affected.
    • bizMebizgal: I agree reputation is so important and they might try to take you down with them.
  • BillBoorman: thats much the same as if they did it in private. keep those views off the shop floor
  • Jill_Perlberg: re: family–thanksgiving will be really uncomfortable sitting next to the spouse of the cheating relative
    • bizMebizgal: I would move my seat immediately.
  • MyPath_MP: You don’t want to wreck your relationship with your relation, but it’s hard to look the other way.
  • PaigeHolden: Let it go. It’s not your relationship or problem. Focus on your own work.

MyPath_MP: Should there be a difference if you’re SURE it’s true love, versus just a hookup/career ladder climb?

  • BillBoorman: career leg ups/overs are rare, but the power can dazzle
  • PaigeHolden: I think if you are prepared to lose your job and be fine with it, that will answer that question.
  • CaSuPe15: but how can you be sure?
    • MyPath_MP: I think proximity/shared interests can suddenly make a person think they’ve found “The One.”
  • BillBoorman: If one party loses their job, both parties need to
    • bizMebizgal: I wish it happened like that. I think most of the time the female loses hers.
  • Jill_Perlberg: you better find out quick. Your career is riding on it.
  • Jill_Perlberg: If you’re new 2 the co., watch&observe, make sure you’re the only person h/she is talking to. Don’t be the dumb new person
    • PaigeHolden: That’s a great point. Every office has a creeper.
    • MyPath_MP: I agree, don’t just accept things at face value right out of the gate. Tread carefully. You’re there to work!
  • Jill_Perlberg: What you think is romance, someone else might view differently. “love” can be blind to reality.
  • bizMebizgal: make sure in all of this u don’t get the reputation of sleeping around w/ co-workers. Once u have that title it is hard to lose

PaigeHolden:  What happens when one gets relocated and the other is left behind?

  • MyPath_MP: VERY good question! I guess it depends on how the other person feels about relocating, too! (On their own)
  • Jill_Perlberg: re: relo–that’s when it’s really about the couple and how the other person feels about moving.
  • MyPath_MP: Yes, you’d find out really quickly if it’s a lasting romance or not!
    • PaigeHolden: Exactly. Again, someone is going to have to make a career sacrifice.

MyPath_MP: So: What’s your verdict on office romance? Go for it, tread lightly, or avoid at all costs?

  • PaigeHolden: Avoid at all costs if you are serious about your career and long-term prospects at the company
  • Jill_Perlberg: AVOID!
  • Jelfster: I’d say tread very lightly.
  • Kblennon: tread lightly if there is no clear statement in comp. policy…avoid if it’s against company policy because it could mean ur job
  • Kblennon: I can’t be completely against it since that is how my parents met Kblennon: RCA got bought out and my dad was offered a promotion with GE in GA. mom got pregnant with me so she stopped anyway MyPath_MP:  Wow, glad that worked out so well!
  • bizMebizgal: that’s cute!
  • MyPath_MP: Good point! There is obviously a precedent. How did it affect their jobs?
  • Kblennon: they actually ended up spending the first 6 mths of their marriage apart cept 4 weekends
  • Jill_Perlberg: Thinking it’s easier to answer when the sparks are flying. There are success stories though @kblennon
  • CaSuPe15: I say go for it, but be smart!


Adapted from my post on MyPath.

One thought on “Flirting With Office Romance?

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