Trying to meet a partner IRL is hard. You could join a local sports team, become a regular at your favorite coffee shop, or meet someone through a friend. But... what if you fall for a coworker? Although it may have been a bit taboo in the past, there is something alluring about finding the Jim to your Pam. You spend a significant amount of time with your coworkers, after all, so developing an office crush isn’t an uncommon occurrence. That said, working with your significant other comes with a unique set of challenges.
Believe it or not, many single folks have been in this predicament. So much so, in fact, that research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management found that one in three employees in the U.S. either have been in a relationship with a coworker or are currently dating one — even after the lockdown pushed so many into a remote work model. This info coming from an organization of HR managers is interesting, considering they are the ones who typically dole out the wrist slaps for fraternizing with your colleagues. So that begs the question: Should you date a coworker?
The Benefits Of Dating A Coworker
According to Clara Artschwager, a dating and relationship coach and host of the I Think I Like You podcast, meeting a partner at work offers you the chance to form connections in a very different way than traditional dating methods. “A workplace is an environment where you have repeated exposure [to others] in non-romantic contexts, so you can see the different sides of someone,” Artschwager tells Bustle. “It opens up a way of seeing one another and getting to know one another over time that we're not afforded in other areas of life.”
Even if you spend little or no time in the office for your job, there’s still something to be said about how much communication happens between you and your coworkers on a daily basis. This often involves a lot of chatting about life outside of work, inside jokes, or even gossiping about the goings-on in the company. Even further, you might even get to see your colleagues really in their element. To this end, Artschwager says that seeing a coworker performing at their best can easily become attractive to you — even if they aren’t the physical type you’d normally have your eye on. Watching someone give an amazing presentation or motivational speech can really make the attraction build.
Risks Of Dating A Coworker
Although plenty of people take note when there’s a hottie in accounting or when a flirty Slack message comes their way, not everyone acts on those thoughts. Oftentimes, that’s because the cons far outweigh the pros. Depending on who you might have your eye on, human resources manager Anastacia Cesario, who works at tech company Internap, says to consider the professional impact that courting a colleague might have on your career. “Unfortunately, dating a coworker at a different level could cause others in the company to have a negative view of you,” she tells Bustle. Getting entangled with someone at a different corporate level than you, especially, can cause rumors that you might be “sleeping your way to the top,” says Cesario, or taking advantage of someone below your status.
Dating a coworker also opens you up to the risk of sexual harassment or being put in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation, Cesario adds. If someone takes advantage of you, for instance, they could withhold promotions or bad mouth you to coworkers in leadership positions, she explains. If you have any hesitations, it’s a good idea to hold off until you’re sure you want to be in a relationship with your colleague — and until after you’ve cleared it with the proper channels at work.
Is Dating A Coworker Worth It?
There’s no denying that there are certain situations in which it would be best to keep your eye on the prize at work and not on the cutie in the next cubicle. It’s also possible, however, that interoffice frolicking can be above-board and not cause everything to crumble. “Dating a coworker who is on the same level as you or on a different team may not be seen negatively,” says Cesario. “If you keep your drama out of the workplace, no one will have a reason to pass judgments and you could reduce the need for HR or management to interfere.”
On the plus side, meeting a potential S.O. at work could lead to a great relationship with someone that you really know. When you get the chance to collaborate with or learn from a coworker, there’s a chance to develop genuine chemistry in an organic way, says Artschwager, without the pressure of sex or a relationship being on the table.
So, to answer the question of whether or not you should go for the person you’ve been staring at in Zoom meetings for weeks, Cesario says it all depends on your job, office culture, and how long you plan to stay with the company. “It could work out if you and your coworker are in similar life stages, have similar career paths, and share the same values,” she tells Bustle. “On the other hand, you could have career implications or be perceived a certain way based on your behavior.” Your best bet is to check in with your HR department or refer to company policies, but beyond that, consider your own comfort levels. If you and your coworker are already involved, Artschwager says it can last if you both have good intentions and open communication. Plus, it sure beats getting the ick while swiping away on Tinder.
Anastacia Cesario, human resources business partner at Internap