Office Romance Etiquette

Man flirting with woman at the office
Use caution when getting involved in an office romance. Westend61/Getty Images

Have you ever felt your heart race for someone you work with? Do you feel your mouth go dry when that guy from accounting meets your gaze? Do you go weak at the knees when you are asked to show the new associate around the office? If so, you're not alone. It's quite common for romantic relationships to form during business hours.

Most people who work in offices see their coworkers more hours during the week than they do their spouses or significant others, so it makes sense that personal feelings often develop.

Here are some tips and guidelines for how to handle those feelings while you're on the clock.

Company Policy

The first thing you need to do is find out whether or not your company has a policy on romantic relationships among its employees. Some businesses are fine with husbands and wives or couples who are dating being on the payroll, as long as their relationships don't interfere with work. Be above board and honest about your relationship, but don't flaunt it while you're on company time.

You also need to be cautious when you are away from the office. If your department conducts classified business, don't discuss it with the person you are in a relationship with. Doing so could get one or both of you fired if the higher-ups find out.

Supervisors and Close Coworkers

There might be a policy stating that you can't be in a romantic relationship with someone in your department or your supervisor.

If you find that you and your supervisor can't resist the love bug, one of you will need to request a transfer to another department, or your risk losing your job.

Workplace Discretion

No matter how physical your romantic relationship is, keep your hands to yourself at the office. As soon as you clock in or walk into your office, your time belongs to the company.

You don't want to be the subject of water cooler gossip or provide fodder for the office big mouth.

Your coworkers should never be put in an embarrassing position of having to witness moments that should be private between you and the other person in the relationship. Avoid private jokes, sexual comments, and public displays of affection.

Don't dress provocatively, change your makeup, or wear extra fragrance to impress the other person. Doing any of these things will be obvious and make your coworkers uncomfortable.

Leave the Personal Disagreements Behind

Even the most loving couples disagree at times. Don't take your battles to the office. As difficult as it may be, leave whatever differences you have at the door and focus on your job. Snide remarks have no place in a business relationship, so keep your comments to the other person professional and positive.

Correspondence

If you are in a romantic relationship with someone in your office, make sure all of your dreamy poetry and starry-eyed observations are done after hoursĀ on your personal email and phones. Never send a love letter through office email or on company letterhead.

Remember that the company owns the email, and they have the right to check it at any time.

You might also accidentally click "reply all" and send the email to a group of people who have no business knowing the intimate details of your relationship.

Conversation

Whether you are in a meeting or chatting on the phone with the person you're in a relationship with, keep your conversation professional. Avoid using pet names or bringing up anything that the two of you do outside the office. Even if everyone knows you're in a relationship, keeping all conversation on the task at hand will prevent embarrassing your coworkers.

Private Moments

You may find yourself alone with your squeeze from time to time, but you still need to keep your hands to yourself. Sneaking into the storage closet for a kiss can get you into big trouble if someone walks in looking for a box of paperclips.

Act like a grownup and resist the temptation for a quick smooch behind the cubicle partition.

This also goes for holding hands or putting your arms around each other. Don't do it, even on the way to your car. Wait until you pull out of the company parking lot to show your affection.

Company Party

When both of you attend the company party, you need to remember that you're not with your softball team or friends from college. It's still a business function, so maintain the same professional demeanor that you would at the office, even if you arrive and leave together. You don't want to leave a lingering image in people's minds that will return to haunt you when you go back to work on Monday.

Sharing Too Much Information with Others

Resist the urge to discuss your private relationship with other coworkers, or you run the risk of sharing too much information. The people you work with have no need for intimate details of your relationship.

Breaking Up

One of the most difficult aspects of an office relationship is breaking up, which is more complicated when you have to see the person day after day at the office. After things don't work out in your personal relationship, you are likely to harbor hard feelings toward the other person.

Don't let these feelings interfere with your work, or you might find yourself sitting in front of your supervisor or human resources representative, having to explain your attitude. If you discover that you aren't able to face this person every day, you may request a transfer to a different department. However, if you work for a small company, one of you might need to look for a job elsewhere.

Faithful

It should go without saying that if you are married you should never allow feelings for someone else to grow. If you find that that you are attracted to someone you work with, do whatever it takes to prevent harming your existing relationship. Avoid being alone with the person. Not only will being unfaithful to your spouse or significant other jeopardize your job your personal life will be a huge mess.

The same rule applies if the other person is married or in a committed relationship with someone else.

You don't want to develop a reputation of being a home-wrecker or someone your coworkers can't trust. You're an adult, so act like it and consider the consequences of your actions.