Can you date your co-worker?

3:57 PM

While dating a coworker might seem like a wild, adventurous thrill ride that could make an otherwise drab workweek that much more exciting, there are a few key factors to keep in mind before taking the plunge into an office romance.

These points are critical, especially for those of you who are trying to advance your career in a small office environment.

Size matters

A small- to medium-size office can be a potentially disastrous place to find oneself attracted to a female colleague. While falling for a coworker isn't necessarily advised in any office environment, this holds especially true in a small workplace where everyone is into everyone else's business -- both personal and work-related.

On the other hand, it's only natural to find yourself attracted to someone you work with closely day in and day out. While larger offices are generally more impersonal, smaller work environments tend to create the type of closeness that can lead to the development of a romantic relationship.

The conditions are right

Plus, when getting involved with a coworker, chances are that you can bypass all the intricate steps that are required to attract and impress her from the get-go.

You are already in direct contact with her on a daily basis, you talk about life and work, you have coffee and perhaps the occasional lunch here and there -- it's almost as if the early stages of the dating game have already been taken care of.

To leap or not to leap?

But at what point do you decide if it's worth your while -- and potentially your future at that job -- to take the next step and become involved with your coworker? Well, before you make any drastic decisions, my best advice is to take a closer look at all the potential benefits and disasters that could be associated with this new career move.

Then -- and only then -- can you truly ask yourself: "Does the play outweigh the price I may have to pay?"

The benefits

As with most new relationships, the real excitement comes in the early stages: the flirting, the secret e-mails, the smiles and sexual glances, the playful jokes and letters. These are all bonuses that will most definitely bring joy to your long, hard day at the office. Let's take a look at some of the specific benefits.
  • You feel vitalized when you wake up in the morning; you can't wait to see her all decked out in her office attire, complete with that cheery smile when she sees you walk in. Perhaps even a little "good morning" peck on the cheek -- in private, of course.
  • If she's the office babe, chances are you'll feel and act like the office stud with this new boost of excitement in your life. However, the other guys in the office might be somewhat jealous of you when they catch on. But you couldn't care less; you're on top of the world, right?
You have lunch together and you have someone to confide in, but what if things aren't so good

  • You get to have lunch together. An otherwise boring office lunch can magically turn into an intimate lunch date complete with flirting, frolicking and maybe even a quickie.
  • During private time, you'll always have something to talk about when your conversation becomes stale, as you both live and breathe 40 hours of the same workspace each and every week.
  • You always have someone to confide in concerning your work-related problems. Likewise, you can be there for her when she needs to blow off some steam.
  • The thrill of being intimate in the office during the day, after hours and when others aren't looking can be very exciting.
  • If you share good chemistry, chances are you'll work well in groups and complement one another on certain aspects of your jobs.

The downsides

As with everything in life, along with the good comes the bad. The only difference in this case is that when it's bad, it's horrible.
  • When things aren't going your way at work, whether it's a personal issue or a work-related incident, the last thing you need is added pressure stemming from tension between you and your office flame. That cold, hard glare she lets off can really burn a hole right through the back of your brain when tension arises. Even worse is when others around the office have to witness this chaos. Not pleasant in the least.
  • The more private time you spend together during office hours, the more and more you'll begin to alienate yourself from your other colleagues. The worst thing you can do is distance yourself from your immediate associates, especially those you've developed personal relationships with. As soon as trouble in corporate paradise rears its ugly head and you find yourself as the office outsider, you'll have to work overtime to regain their trust and friendship.
  • When the going gets tough, it's difficult to avoid one another in a small office. Chances are your office space or workstation is just around the corner from hers, so attempting to ignore her all week is virtually impossible. In a larger office, you may be able to pull it off.
  • Office gossip can destroy your chances of promotion. Should your boss discover that you're more preoccupied with your relationship than with your job, you may find yourself writing those cute little love notes on a pink slip.
  • No matter how much excitement your coworkers have in their personal lives, they always seem to be trying to catch you in the act. If they sense that something is going on between you and your lady friend, they'll do everything in their power to expose you. If you are caught in an act of intimacy during office hours, you're busted. This alone can severely harm your professional image.
If she's having a bad day, you're screwed... and what if you break up?

  • If she's having a bad day, guess who's first in line to hear about it all day at work, then some more during private time?
  • If she's having mood swings, you're public enemy No. 1.

The breakup

As with many relationships, you may find that this one simply isn't working out. Should you decide that it's time to break it off, those 40 work hours per week might feel like an eternity in the early stages of the breakup. The beauty of breaking off a normal relationship is that you no longer have to see the other person afterward. Obviously, the same rules don't apply when it comes to an office fling.
  • If you are responsible for ending it, she might seek revenge and try to make your life hell at work. She may even try to get you canned.
  • On the other hand, if she ends it, you could be the bitter one and you might even attempt to seek revenge of your own. What's worse, jealousy may take its toll when you witness her flirting with other employees, going out on lunch dates and ultimately moving on with her life -- without you. Such distractions can seriously harm your performance at work.
  • And last but not least, if you gossiped about other coworkers with her or bad-mouthed anyone during your good times together, there's a chance that those comments will come back to haunt you.

Make a professional decision

So there you have it. If you ever find yourself in this type of predicament, do whatever you feel is right, but let your brain weigh the pros and cons before enrolling yourself in a crash course in career chaos.

Unless you honestly believe that you can juggle your career and a relationship with one hand, you might want to do yourself a favor and keep your business and personal lives separate.
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