Why Can’t I Date My Coworker?

By | Dec 3, 2008

 

So, you’ve started at a new job, and you are totally attracted to that cute guy/girl working down the hall.  What’s more, you’re absolutely sure he/she likes you, too.  You would really like to spend some time getting to know this person outside of the office setting, but company policies are very clear.  No relationships between coworkers.

When going over policies and procedures with new employees, I’ve always had questions when it came to relationships between fellow employees.  Most companies have policies against coworkers dating, and most employees I’ve talked to don’t understand.  “Why should my employer have any say in who I date?” they ask.  Well, there are some very good reasons why employers don’t want coworkers dating.

Office Morale

So, let’s say you do get together with this other person in the office, and you really hit it off.  You date for a while, things are going really well, and then out of the blue they dump you.  Or you dump them.  Or you have a huge fight and dump each other.  Let’s face it, having both sides of a broken relationship in the same office can cause quite a bit of tension.  And nobody wants to be caught in the middle of that.

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Sexual Harassment

Is that guy/girl down the hall really attracted to you?  Are you absolutely sure?  You better be if you want to ask them out, because if they aren’t interested, you may be setting yourself up for a sexual harassment accusation.  And while the boss can deal with that as per company policies, most employers would rather circumvent the problem before it can occur.  They want to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

Domestic Violence

So, you started dating that cute guy down the hall, and he turns out to be a total psycho.  He wants to control your every move, is insanely jealous, starts stalking you after hours, and threatens you with violence.  Now the boss has to deal with the restraining order you’ve taken out against your coworker.  Obviously, he can’t keep working there if you have a restraining order against him, and the boss also has to consider the possibility of workplace violence.  So now the boss has to fire an employee, change the locks, alert security, and all the other things that go with a threat of workplace violence.

Fairness

“But,” you say, “none of that will ever happen to me.  I’ll never get involved in that kind of relationship, and I can tell when someone is interested in me.”  Well, that may be true, but the boss can’t make exceptions.  She has apply all policies to everyone equally, or open up herself to accusations of discrimination.  So, while it’s possible you would never find yourself in any of those situations (although I’d probably argue that it could happen to anyone), the boss has to apply the policy consistently.

So, does this mean you can never pursue a relationship with a coworker?  Not entirely.  If you decide to pursue a workplace romance, you’re going to need to be extremely discreet, because if you’re caught, it can definitely lead to disciplinary action.  Never discuss your personal life on the job.  Don’t go out to places you are likely to be seen.  Take care with who knows about your relationship.  Then, if it seems your relationship is becoming serious, the two of your will need to make a decision.  One of you will need to transfer to another department or even find another job.

Remember, companies have a reason for the policies they institute.  Even if you don’t necessarily understand the reasoning behind them, don’t blow them off casually.

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8 Comments so far
  1. Brigitte Smith (1 comments) December 3, 2008 11:26 pm

    GREAT points, Jodith. If anyone has ever been involved in the legal side associated with some of these relationships gone wrong, you will really associate with what Jodith says. Very comprehensive article, by the way.

  2. Jodith (189 comments) December 4, 2008 12:31 pm

    Thanks, Brigitte.

    I worked as the admin assistant to an HR Director for a couple of years. I learned so much from him. We had this issue come up during collective bargaining, since he wanted to maintain the no-relationships rule, and the union wanted to do away with it. He spent a lot of time explaining just what all could go wrong. It was a real eye opener for me.

  3. Pizza Man (1 comments) December 7, 2008 11:23 pm

    In the Philippines, this only applies to lower level employees. This practice is often done by higher officials. It usually involves the executive and his secretary. They’re not even discreet about it. It really affects the entire workplace. A friend of mine was fired for bringing such a case to higher management while the official was not even reprimanded. Tough luck.

  4. Jodith (189 comments) December 8, 2008 8:25 pm

    Yes, unfortunately, many countries don’t have the same protections that we have here in the US. Even here, the laws are not always applied equally. It’s always really hard to sue for sexual harassment. Often it’s just easier to find another job. It takes a brave person to stick it out through a suit.

  5. Job (1 comments) January 12, 2010 11:28 am

    I tried once to date a guy I worked with. He never asked me out though so I gave up trying and not long after met a new guy through a friend who i didn’t work with. We hit it off really well and all of a sudden my co-worker was angry at me. he didn’t file anything but he spread nasty rumors that were unfounded.
    .-= Job´s last blog ..Preparing For The Test =-.

  6. Amy (1 comments) February 2, 2010 2:41 am

    Met my husband through online dating.. no matter what anyone says, it worked for me! I don’t think I’d date someone from the office, but I can see how it might happen! thanks for your post, it’s always good to read other people’s takes on these things.

    Thanks!
    Amy
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..Stop Snoring Exercises For You To Think About =-.

  7. Johnathon (1 comments) March 5, 2010 2:27 am

    I have been caught in the middle of a broken relationship between co-workers before and it really isn’t very nice. The constant awkwardness really affects the people working around them, and if they are in a position where they should actually be working together at work it’s even worse.

    Great Post, thanks.

  8. Riyo S. (1 comments) March 2, 2011 10:40 pm

    I’m of the opinion that a woman should not date anyone where she works… and I’m speaking from experience! Didn’t work out for me, and worse, in the end I had to quit my job when it became too painful. 🙁

    I stumbled upon another blog post which kinda agreed with what you said here – http://derekrake.com/dating-a-co-worker/ – the author is of the opinion that office romances usually end up in a disaster. Kinda hard not to agree.

    I wish others have better luck than I did…

    -Riyo
    Riyo S.´s last blog post ..Sweating it out!

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