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Office Romance 101: What if You Are Dating the Boss?

Hallie Crawford

Although office romances are still considered unacceptable or even not allowed in some organizations, they are more common than they used to be. According to a recent report by CareerBuilder, 41 percent of workers have dated a co-worker, the highest since 2007, and 29 percent of that group say it was someone higher up in the organization. Fifteen percent say the person they dated was their boss. Even though office relationships may be more common, this doesn't mean that issues won't arise from dating a superior. Here are some tips to keep in mind, whether you are one of the parties involved or not.

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Decide if it's worth the risk. You probably already know the general culture of your organization about having a romantic relationship at work. And while dating a co-worker is one thing, dating the boss generally creates conflict. It's important to ask yourself questions such as: How big is your organization? Would it immediately become obvious if you started seeing this person? Is this person the boss of your team, your boss's boss or someone higher up in the organization? How often do you see each other at work? Have you spent time with this person outside of the office? Is this just a flirtation or is there actually a chance for a real relationship? Keep in mind that if things don't work out, there could be a case for sexual harassment (especially if you are the boss and later break things off with your employee). If the risk is greater than the actual attraction, stop the relationship before it starts.

Keep things professional. If you are dating a co-worker, even if it is the boss, remember that while you are at work, you are co-workers. There is no need to flaunt your relationship to others. This will also avoid making your relationship a human resources issue. Being too public about your romance could cause others to scrutinize your relationship and accuse you of using your relationship to climb the corporate ladder. Keep work emails business-oriented and send your private communications from your personal phones and email accounts. Your time at the office is not one long date, and while this can be hard to balance, everyone in the office will thank you for it.

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Create boundaries. If you are dating the boss, or if you are the boss dating an employee, it is important to talk about boundaries early on in the relationship. It can be easy to get caught up in the moment and cross professional lines while at work. What are the company policies or viewpoints toward an office romance? How can you respect those boundaries while getting to know this person outside of work hours? How will you treat each other at the office? At what point in your relationship will you let others know that you are a couple? Discussing these matters openly early on will avoid awkward moments and allow you to know where the other person stands.

Consider long-term implications. It is important to analyze how this relationship could impact your career. Again, it is vital to know the company policies for an office romance or even the policies for spouses working together. (After all, if the relationship does work out, you might eventually want to get married.) Is there another position available at the company where there wouldn't be issues working together? In most cases, one of you would have to take a new job for the relationship to continue. Would either of you be willing to do this? Would there be any lasting resentment? If neither of you are willing to make changes or compromise in your careers, perhaps it would be best to rethink your relationship.

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Your co-worker is dating the boss. If you find out that a co-worker is dating the boss, don't rush to the HR department. It can be easy to assume they are receiving special treatment or favors, but you will need proof to make any kind of accusation. First of all, how did you find out? Have they tried to involve you in any sort of dishonest activity at work? Are they disrupting your work? Are they behaving in an unprofessional manner? If they are keeping things professional, it's best to stay focused on doing your job. But if their relationship is a cause for concern, approach the HR department for advice on what to do.



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