How to Prevent Problems When You’re Dating a Coworker

Dating a coworker has its pros and cons, but it’s definitely do-able if you know how to prevent problems. Here’s how to dodge the bullets that workplace relationships can bring – and stay employed.

How to Prevent Problems When You’re Dating a Coworker In Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships, Henry Cloud and John Townsend describe how to set and maintain healthy boundaries. It’s especially important to apply boundaries when you’re dating a coworker, because they help you grow in freedom, honesty, and self-control. We all have hang-ups that make romance difficult – and dating a coworker brings a whole new set of problems. Boundaries in Dating describes where boundaries are needed, ways to set them, and how to enforce the consequences when they are violated. This book isn’t geared towards workplace relationships, but can easily be applied to dating coworkers.

One of the best tips on how to prevent problems when you’re dating a coworker is to implement and maintain healthy boundaries – and leave the “love languages” at home. To learn more, read Examples of Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages.

Dating a Coworker? How to Prevent Problems

You probably know the reasons dating a coworker isn’t ideal: it causes problems with other coworkers, it can lead to nepotism or the suspicion of unfair treatment and advantages, and a breakup can be both heart wrenching and professionally damaging.

Nevertheless, you’re dating a coworker…or you’re considering dating someone you work with, but you’re smart enough to search for ways to prevent problems before you start a new relationship.

None of these tips for preventing problems when you’re dating a coworker will work in every situation. It depends on your work situation, professional relationship with your coworker, your work environment, and even your age and culture in relation to your coworker’s age and culture. I’m giving you a few things to consider, not black-and-while rules for dating a coworker.

Consult your workplace’s Human Resource Policy and Procedures Manual

Your company’s Policy and Procedures Manual will likely have guidelines for dating at work, especially between supervisors and subordinates (which is a whole different beast than dating a coworker who is on the same professional level). I encourage you NOT to date a coworker if it goes against company policy. Why? You could lose your job. Or, you might hurt your chances of getting promoted – and your professional reputation may suffer.

If you work in a small business, your company many not have an HR Manual. What then? It depends on the company, the other employees, the relationships – but it may be worth talking to the owner of the small business about how to prevent problems when you’re dating a coworker.

If you’re not sure if you’re professionally or personally ready to date a coworker, read Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a New Relationship.

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Be aware of the stats on workplace relationships

Almost 85% of 18-29 year olds would have a romantic relationship with a coworker, according to a recent Workplace Options survey. Older employees are less likely to have problems dating a coworker because they don’t engage in workplace relationships: just over 35% of 30-46 year olds and about 30% of 47-66 year olds would date a coworker.

About 40% of those 18-29 year olds would date their supervisors, says a recent CareerBuilder survey. Surprisingly, workplace relationships have a fairly high success rate – of the 38% of people surveyed that dated a coworker at least once, 31% went on to marry that coworker. I bet those weddings were the result of some thoughtful planning on how to prevent problems when dating coworkers.

Tell your colleagues before the rumors start flying

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,” said Mark Twain. If you want to prevent gossip and rumors about you and your coworker dating, you might consider announcing it yourself. You don’t need to send an interoffice memo or email; rather, be open about your dating relationship. Talk about it in the lunch room, when you’re getting a coffee at the Keurig machine, or during casual office door conversations.

Separate your emotions from your work relationships

This is the biggest reason it’s not ideal to start dating a coworker, even if you’re priming yourself to prevent problems: your emotions may overcome your professional performance. Even if YOU are cool as a cucumber, your coworker may not be able to separate his emotions, physical passion, need for connection, etc from his work relationships.

It may not feel natural to compartmentalize your romantic feelings and your professional work obligations, but it’s one of the best tips on how to prevent problems when you’re dating a coworker. Talk about this with your partner; be honest about the importance of separating emotions and work. And be consistent! Don’t have sex or a romantic discussion in your office one day, and ban all dating activity the next.

Don’t tweet, blog, Facebook or pin your workplace relationship

How to Prevent Problems When You’re Dating a Coworker
“How to Prevent Problems When You’re Dating a Coworker” image by Deanna Paquette, via Shutterstock

It may be a good idea to NOT hide the fact that you’re dating a coworker when you’re at work, but it’s definitely not a good idea to mix your workplace relationship with your social media updates. Why? Because what goes onto the internet NEVER comes off – it’s like taking pee out of a swimming pool. You don’t have control over where your tweets, blog posts, pins, etc are going.

You especially don’t want to mix the professional social media website LinkedIn with your personal experience dating a coworker.

Do not engage in PDAs (Personal Displays of Affection) at work

Your colleagues don’t want to see you and your coworker holding hands, gazing into each other’s eyes over the Keurig, winking, or squeezing each other’s bottoms in the elevator. This makes them uncomfortable, and creates unprofessional images of you in their minds. Avoiding PDAs also helps you compartmentalize your relationship, because your physical actions will lead your emotions. If you act professionally, you will have more formal and professional feelings at work even when you want to nuzzle or snuggle. Preventing problems when you’re dating a coworker is about leaving love at home and doing your work at work – it can be as simple as that.

If you think dating a coworker may be more trouble than it’s worth, read Signs You Should Stop Dating Him.

I welcome your thoughts on how to prevent problems when you’re dating a coworker, but I can’t offer relationship advice. Sharing your experience may bring clarity and insight, though – and it’ll show other readers they’re not alone!

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” Flannery O’Connor.

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