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RAMSEY: The office romance: Danger or opportunity?

It’s not exactly spring yet when a young man’s (or young woman’s) fancy turns to love, but it is the month of romance. We just celebrated Valentine’s Day.

And as an added bonus this is a Leap Year when traditionally a woman can propose to a man — a custom that goes back to the fifth century.

Perhaps your fancy is turning to thoughts of romance. Is the girl or guy in the next cubicle beginning to look awfully attractive? Maybe you’d like to strike up more than the usual office friendship, If so, what should you do and how should you go about it?

It is not unusual for people in today’s workplace to find their spouse or partner in the office. According to the American Management Association, almost one-half — 49 percent to be exact — of office romances result in marriage or a significant long-term relationship.

After all, most people spend more time in the workplace than anywhere else. If you choose to make a romantic move, be smart and know the rules.

Know the company policy. Some companies have strict policies against dating co-workers; others don’t care. Although most organizations don’t want to intrude on their employees’ private lives, the shadow of sexual harassment looms large. It is never wise to date someone who is your supervisor or someone who reports to you.

Set the ground rules early. Discuss on how you plan to handle the relationship around the office and what you will do if things don’t work out. That requires a level of maturity and discipline that is often hard to come by, but do it if you both want to keep your job.

Don’t put your career on the line for the sake of a romance that might not work out.

Consider the effect on your job performance. Being in love can be distracting. If your focus at work is on the object of your affection and not on your job, you are putting your career at risk. On the other hand, job performance could improve when you are trying to impress that other person.

Be discreet and professional. It is never a good idea to discuss your romantic relationships with co-workers so keep the details to yourself. People will talk. There is no subject more fascinating than office gossip.

A few extra words of caution about romance in the office:

• Observe the one-year rule of dating in the workplace. Gradually become close friends with a co-worker. Start by keeping your interaction casual. This is definitely not the time to go head over heels right off the bat.

• Be especially cautious if you are new on the job, whether you are pursuing or being pursued. Because you are a new hire, you will be under extra scrutiny. Your boss and co-workers will be watching you closely and observing your professional behavior.

• Be wary of email. Don’t use the office email to correspond with the object of your affection. Remember that email is like the newspaper. Anyone can read it. Before you hit “send,” make sure what you are sending is purely professional.

• Steer clear of Facebook and other social media sites to post the details of your new-found love. That’s where people go first when they want to pry and spy.

• Never, ever, ever get involved with someone who is married. When word gets out — and it will — that is the surest way to lose your job.

Office romances can be fun and successful. Take the proper steps to ensure that the relationship will last without interfering with your job and career. The wise couple is careful that any interaction in the office is purely professional. It’s a matter of having your career and dating it, too.

Here’s to finding love in all the right places.

 

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, professional speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-598-9812 or go to LydiaRamsey.com to leave a comment, ask a question or learn more about her programs and products.

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