At just about every job I have ever worked I have had the opportunity to involve myself in some sort of inter office romance. It never fails. When I walk through the door, I instantly become the target of some sort of assessment an evaluation process that usually takes about two weeks before a woman slips me her number and gives me the whole “welcome to the job” speech. (In a not so welcome twist of experiences, at my latest job a GUY slipped me his email and phone number with K.I.T written on it. Short for Keep In Touch, for those of you whose memory has faded since the 8th grade. I think I gave him the nastiest ice grill I have ever given anyone in my life) And not that I am some sort of irresistibly gorgeous guy who women can’t keep their hands off of. I mean……I am cute….but…well….the point is, that it is really not about me. It is more about the familiarity that people build up with someone who they work with. Once you become a grown-up with real adult things going on in your life, you have less and less time to be social. To mingle. To hang out and meet that new seasonal boo. It really becomes legitimately difficult to work an 8-10 hour day and then come home and be motivated to get dressed up and go hang out at the local night spot. Something has to give. Or better yet we have to find a way to do get more done in the core hours of the day. And for people who work a lot, meeting someone at your job or at your gym, or on that 45 minute public transit ride home just seems to make sense.
There seem to be different sorts of circumstances that affect us at work when it comes to possibly dating someone on the job. The obvious dynamic of dating someone who is your superior is always going to have a heavy impact on what people do or don’t do. Then there is the whole sort of “casual dating/buddy hang out” that most of us have done. This is when we fool ourselves that the constant invitations to after work happy hours that turn in to hanging out at the mall on a convenient Saturday to the eventual Saturday evening dinner is not in fact “dating”, but just hanging out with a co-worker. (holla at me about how that’s going after you have slept together) Then you have the common understanding amongst a lot of people who say, don’t date at work. Never…..Ever! This is the idea that I have always subscribed to. Your workplace is possibly the place in the world where your image, perception and integrity mean the absolute most. More important than my image while sitting around with family and friends. More important than your status at the gym. Even more important than your image at church in some cases! The obvious cautions of having your integrity questioned in the workplace as someone who may be willing to compromise their professionalism for a quick lunchtime romp in the copy room is always an issue. Having other people know that you are having a causal relationship with someone on the job is a real credibility knock in most environments. Unless of course you are the boss. At which point…..who the hell cares? For women this is especially taboo because the inter office water cooler gossip can significantly damage her ascension up the corporate ladder. For men the huge phobia that looms with us, is having to continue to look at, speak too and work with a woman who things have not gone well with. It is hard to handle a situation with a woman who you are trying to shake off like Barry Sanders putting a juke move on a Dallas Cowboy Linebacker. It is not a good look. Having to re-arrange your core work hours to limit your contact with her. Changing your parking habits. Finding a secret place to eat lunch since she knows that you go to sub shop downstairs every day. Even having to switch teams that you typically work with to avoid the awkward interactions. And the Gossip…….oh the gossip. All of the speculation by co-workers as to what has actually happened can fuel the sort of office chatter that can legitimately jeopardize your job. So in my mind, not only has it never been worth all that to me, it just seems like an entirely irresponsible thing to do. But why do so many people engage in these sorts of office romances?
Desires. Timing. Convenience. Just that simple. For a lot of us we cannot overcome our natural desires to act on the dirty little thoughts that instantly pop into our heads when we see attractive people. We just allow the excitement; the intrigue and the daily interactions with attractive people overcome us even though we know the potential risks that we run. When I say that timing has an affect on our decisions I should really use the term as a reference to just time and them simply longevity. For guys we can scan the office in the first 2 days to know if there are any prospects that we find attractive at all. In a short 16 hours we can completely tell which woman is attractive in the mold that we like. But over time…days turning to weeks, weeks turning to months and so on, that woman who started out as just OK when you walked into the office a month ago starts to look pretty hot. Time has a funny way of making people look good to you. Moderately attractive after a couple of weeks becomes…Damn she’s fine! But while men, who often times have a natural hunter’s instincts can generally view such encounters as opportunities to just “date”, women often take a different approach. Just like in many other circumstances a lady will date for substance. Possibility of future attachment. And while I used to think that this was such a bad idea for some of the reasons I listed previously, I have totally changed my mind and think that women should go for it. If she spends most of her day at work, it only makes sense to explore options for love in the workplace. They should just be cautioned to use a higher level of scrutiny when doing so. The same guy that you might “give a shot” in the outside world, may not cut the mustard in the work world.
Rule #1 Try to avoid dating a guy that works directly in your office. And by in your office I mean in the same actual floor or room. The remainder of the building is ideal. That cute guy that you see in passing in your elevator could be perfect for you.
Rule #2 Don’t move to soon too fast. This is something that you really want to be pretty sure about. This is not a situation where you want to drive the ship for an uncertain guy and lead him to the promise land that is a relationship with you. Give him a chance to truly feel certain about what could potentially go down. Plus a little extra time to get to know him gives you a greater level of certainty that he doesn’t run him mouth, that he actually does what he says he does(professionally) and that he is not some crazy stalker.
Rule #3 Don’t just date him casually. This is where ladies run the risk of having a sullied reputation in the workplace. I know, I know…double standard blah blah blah. Look. At the end of the day it is not a fair practice, but either you can fight the power and get fired for being a “disruption to the work environment” or you can keep your job and work towards advancement. Your call.