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8 Rules to Follow When Dating a Coworker

8 Rules to Follow When Dating a Coworker

Each job comes equipped with a handbook full of guidelines and rules, but what are the rules to follow when dating a coworker?

According to research, the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime. With all that time at the office, you would hope that at least SOME of those grueling hours could be punctuated by some fun. Hence, workplace romances are anything but uncommon. In fact, an estimated 62% of employees have admitted to dating a coworker.

Depending on where you work, there are guidelines in place regarding office romances. For the most part, it is perfectly acceptable to date a coworker as long as that person is not also considered your boss or subordinate.

If you are currently dating a coworker — or considering dating a coworker — there are a few rules to keep in mind, eight rules to be exact.

Tips for Dating a Coworker #1: Avoid Romancing the Following Coworkers AT ALL COSTS

Ah, forbidden fruit — how sweet it is! Dating a coworker can seem like a fun — albeit naughty — way to spice things up in and out of your office.

But depending on what type of coworker you’re dating, an office romance can be anything but fun and games.

Before we get into the dos and don’ts of dating a coworker, let’s look at the following types of coworkers you should avoid romancing AT ALL COSTS.

The taken coworker:

dating a coworker

If a coworker is married or in a serious relationship, the best time to date them is…


It doesn’t matter if you and the taken woman in question just want a fling or are stellar sleuths.

Just…don’t…do it.

For one, it’s morally wrong. Think about how you would feel if you found out your significant other was sneaking around behind your back. And, as with many secrets, things have a way of coming out. The last thing you want is to be caught in the middle of someone else’s relationship drama.

No matter how strong the attraction is between you two, decline any advances and steer clear. If you two are meant to date, allow that to happen when the coworker in question is unattached.

Your superior OR subordinate:

As noted before, most jobs have strict rules against dating your boss or employee. Even if your job doesn’t have such a policy, it’s still best to steer clear of getting involved in these types of situations. Even if your intentions are pure (i.e., you aren’t seeking a raise or promotion in return for intimacy), the power imbalance can automatically cause friction between you two, as well as jealousy or resentment from other colleagues.

If for some reason the stars align in such a way that you two think you may be soulmates, make an appointment to meet with your human resources manager.

Together, explain that you would both like to begin a consensual romantic relationship, and you want to be sure that no ethical lines are crossed in the workplace. This keeps you, your coworker, and your company out of hot water.

The office gossip/oversharer:

Later in this article, I will go into further detail on why discretion is the name of the game when it comes to dating coworkers.

When it comes to being discreet, however, no one can blow the lid off a covert dating operation like the office gossip or an oversharer. You certainly don’t want to walk into a situation like this one while grabbing coffee from the break room.

Tips for Dating a Coworker #2: Understand What Type of Relationship You Want

dating a coworker

Unlike other relationships where you can allow things to develop organically, it’s important for you and your coworker to establish how serious of a relationship you want this to be.

Are you hoping that the relationship will be serious, casual, or are you looking for a one-time fling?

This level of transparency may feel unnatural and awkward, but it will save you both a lot of awkwardness — and potentially hurt feelings — in the long run.

Be honest about your deal breakers and come up with an exit strategy should the relationship not work out. If things go south and neither of you has plans to quit your job or change departments, discuss how you two can comfortably interact should the relationship end.

Tip #3: Keep the News to Yourself

It’s natural to want to share the news of a budding relationship with friends and coworkers — particularly during the honeymoon phase of a relationship when everything seems too perfect for words.

As much as you may want to shout news of your newfound love from the top of a mountain — don’t.

You can certainly share the news with friends and family outside of your professional circle, but as far as colleagues go, stay mum as long as you can. Intuitive coworkers may already suspect that something is going on, but there’s no need to make a speedy announcement.

Sharing the news too quickly could cause jealousy and resentment among your other colleagues. Or, some colleagues may begin to ask questions that neither of you are prepared to answer since haven’t been dating that long.

On the plus side, keeping your relationship a secret (at least in the beginning) can actually stoke the excitement and fun.

That being said, you may need to tell HR the moment you two make things official. 

Tip #4: Don’t Flirt via the Company’s Chat or Email Servers

dating a coworker

Chances are you have your own personal cell phone and email address that isn’t connected to your work, yes?

Use those.

Sending a “thanks for last night ;)” message to your coworker may be tempting, but think about the ramifications if another colleague saw that message. Even worse, what if you accidentally sent that message to a different coworker, or even your boss?

If you’re communicating via a professional communication channel such as a work email of Slack your superiors will be able to read your messages. This could lead to an awkward dynamic or unwanted conversation about office romances.

Plus messaging and email slip-ups can happen (i.e., the “Reply All” button can be quite a heel), so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Do yourself and your new love a favor — keep personal messages to your personal accounts.

Tip #5: Don’t Let Your New Relationship Affect Your Job Performance

Stay professional at the office. Don’t let your work suffer because you’re in a relationship.

Relationships can be extremely consuming, and when you face romance head-on the minute you walk in the office, attention to things like meeting agendas, deadlines and the like can dwindle.

Keep things professional at the office at all times and resist the urge to communicate differently with your coworker than you would otherwise until you are both off the clock.

Tip #6: Make Room for “Me Time”

dating a coworker

There is a strong correlation between proximity and relationships. Spending a majority of your day with someone and sharing passions for the same vocation can naturally cause things to be taken to a romantic level.

But when you enter a relationship, the closeness that initially brought you two together could threaten to tear you apart.

When you’re first dating, it’s normal to want to spend every waking (and sleeping) moment together. But when your previous 9-5 schedule together turns into nearly 24 hours together, things can become claustrophobic.

Try to spend at least a few nights away from your new love interest. Taking time for yourself will keep both of you from feeling suffocated or overwhelmed.

Spending time away from someone you’re dating is also a great way to keep friendships in check.

We all have those friends who enter a new romance, and — POOF — no search team in the world can find them.

Don’t be that friend.

Tips for Dating Your Coworker #7: Don’t Hook Up at the Office

This one may seem more obvious than it actually is. A surprising number of professionals have admitted to partaking in the most unprofessional act (yes, sex) at their office.

According to a survey from Business Insider,  more than half of the people surveyed who admitted to having sex with a colleague also admitted to getting horizontal at the office!

I don’t care how tempting it may be or what sort of covert hookup operation you can come with — never, EVER hook up at the office.

Even if you’re convinced you won’t get caught, why risk it? Remember, nothing kills the mood like a pink slip.

Tips for Dating Your Coworker #8: Take Things Slow

Going peddle to the metal in an office romance could backfire.

It’s natural that you two will start as coworkers, the move to friends, then romantic interests, then dating, then BF-GF.

No need to skip steps here. You see this person every day. You’ll have plenty of chances to talk, flirt, and build a solid relationship without ever leaving the office.

The worst thing you can do is skip a step by asking her out after a week, or asking her to be your girlfriend after only a date or two. Doing so could backfire and create a super awkward work environment. This is why office romances are often discouraged.

So take things slow, build your foundation, and then go from there.

Need Help Getting Down to Business?

Let’s face it, there were no lessons in school or on the playground that left us equipped to navigate the tricky, confusing world of modern dating. And when you throw workplace dynamics into the mix, things get even more complicated.

Do you need advice and a strategy to help you with your budding office romance? We’re here to help.

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