Dos and don’ts of office romance: New book says the rules have changed

Jordana Divon
Shine On
August 3, 2012

Work in an office setting? Chances are it's where you spend the majority of your waking life.

As you log those hours to advance your career, putting in a little overtime here or there until it equals a whole lot of overtime, your social schedule can take a hit.

This can mean developing a closeness to the co-workers you see more than anyone else, whether it's a deep friendship — or something even deeper than that. Enter: office romance.

"I think it's pretty understandable. For many people, especially right out of school, their workplace is their social circle. And many people are working so hard they don't have a social life," Nancy Shenker, co-author of Don't Hook Up With The Dude In The Next Cube, tells the Toronto Star.

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Office romances have traditionally existed in a murky space between forbidden and willfully "ignored" — that is, as long as we don't see it, it's not our problem.

But with a reported seven out of 10 Canadians revealing there's a little photocopy-room smooch time going on at work, and an additional 66 per cent saying they don't feel this is a problem, it's clear that attitudes are changing.

That doesn't mean it's time for an inter-department bacchanal. While rules about romance may be relaxing, it's vital to be smart about it.

Thanks to her own first-hand experience, Shenker has come up with a list of sage advice for lovestruck co-workers.

Among the winning tips? Know your company policy. If the boss has put a kibosh on office romance, consider whether this relationship means more to you than your job.

Another wise move is to be smart about who you tell (in agonizing, colourful detail) about your crush on David from marketing. Like toothpaste, once the secret's out, it's not going back in the tube. And office gossip is basically an entire warehouse of toothpaste.

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Be proactive. If you're feeling something in your heart, talk frankly and clear-headedly with the person.

And if you find out the feelings are mutual, it's a good idea to approach your supervisor to let him or her know what's going on. That way you can discuss the best way to proceed, plus you avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Be prepared to have to work with this person if your relationship fails. If you feel you can't handle it, one of you may want to start hitting the online classifieds.

Finally, your boss is off limits. Sorry. There may be examples of wonderful marriages that have blossomed from this hierarchical boundary crossing, but generally speaking, this is a bad idea for several reasons.

First, if things go sour it's likely your job will, too.

Second, sleeping with the big cheese is the quickest way to alienate yourself and cause resentment among your co-workers. Melinda Gates is the exception, not the rule.

Keeping these tips in mind can certainly help you navigate through a tricky, relatively undefined set of parameters.

Now go ask Ahmed to join you on a coffee run.

Watch the video below for some tips on how to keep your relationship strong after the honeymoon ends.

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