Do’s and Don’ts of Being in a Work Relationship

The most famous work relationship in pop culture that I can think of is Jim and Pam, from The Office.  They work, live, and thrive together.  It is a great relationship.  But how much of what they do actually translates to real life?  And, is what they do actually appropriate for a work relationship?  Though I’ve never been in an inter-office relationship, I have been in a relationship in an organization at school, which allowed me to understand how to act and ensure my reputation is maintained.  These tips below will help keep your reputation in good shape:

Do:

Enjoy your time together.  It is OK to have fun in the office with a significant other.  Encourage one another and enjoy the additional time you get to spend together.  Many couples are only able to spend the hours before and after work together, but you get to spend work together as well.

Eat lunch together.  There is no better way to break up a long work day than to spend an hour or so with someone you care about.  Take advantage of the opportunity to spend time together during the lunch hour.

Tell your managers you are in a relationship.  This is an important step in a work relationship because it means you are serious with one another.  But, it also shows maturity in that you want others to be aware of your situation.  This gives you the chance to talk more openly about your personal relationship and, as discussed previously in How I Overcame Being a Corporate Robot, opening up to colleagues is hugely beneficial.

Don’t:

Show affection at work.  Leave it at home.  There is no reason for you to be all over one another in the office. Doing this can, and will, make others incredibly uncomfortable.

Work directly with one another.  While a relationship may have started with two people working directly together, this can lead to some sticky situations both for the company as well as for the individuals involved in the relationship.  If you are working on a project together and one person in the relationship is not pulling their weight, this could impact the personal relationship.  Additionally, it could put you in an uncomfortable situation if you have to escalate a situation as a result of your significant other not providing a deliverable on time.

Have sex in the office.  The office in The Office is used many times as a place to hook up, which is completely inappropriate.  Though entertaining in the show, this is, obviously, frowned upon in real life.  I can’t imagine a situation where this would be OK.  You will more than likely be fired on the spot for doing this.

Real-Life Examples

In my experience in Corporate America, I have seen many couples that have formed as a result of working for the same company.  They all seem to work out great, though it requires a level of maturity.  As a young employee, be cautious jumping into a work relationship.  You need to have strong communication skills within your relationship as well as with your colleagues to ensure your personal life does not significantly impact your work life.  

Though this is listed as a “don’t” above, I have been in meetings that included two people in a relationship with one another.   But no one seemed to notice.  They did a great job of focusing on their work despite having a personal relationship outside the office.  The big take-away from couples like this is to do your work as if you were not in a relationship.  That way your performance does not suffer and you do not put yourself or others in uncomfortable situations.

Thought Starters

  • What experiences do you have working with couples in the office?
  • Have you seen any couples violating any of the “don’ts” listed above?