The Dangers of Dating Colleagues
In the last post in our “What You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Getting Ahead” series, we talked about how important it is to be friendly at work, but not too friendly.
And speaking of being “too friendly,” our topic here will discuss the dangers of dating colleagues.
And while we’re not going to say you should never date a colleague, we will say this:
Never, EVER date a manager or direct report
(We’ll explain why in a moment.)
So let’s dive a bit into the dangers of co-workers dating each other.
First, we get it: it’s really dificult to meet people outside of work.
If you went to college, it was easy to make friends and date people: you were literally surrounded by people your age with interests similar to yours. If you lived in the dorms, even better: you constantly interacted with your college friends, and their friends, and their friends.
But after college – or if you didn’t go to college after high school – it can be hard to make friends.
We’re on the job at least eight hours a day, aiming to advance in our chosen line of work. If we commute to work, that’s another hour or two a day of not being able to mingle with potential friends. And weekends? Well, as a young single, there are parties to attend, bars to frequent, and so on.
But we’re not surrounded-by-interesting-people-24-7-365 anymore.
And it’s not surprising that some of these “friends” become romantic relationships
In fact, while many of us aren’t “meeting” anyone “at work” at all, about 27 percent of a 2018 survey’s respondents said they are “open to engaging with romantic relationships with co-workers,” with about a quarter of married survey respondents saying they’d met their spouse at work.
But dating coworkers comes with some serious caveats:
- It can be quite painful to see your ex every day at work if you break up.
- Your colleagues and even your supervisor may not take you as seriously (depending on how “googly-eyed” you are about your relationship).
- You could end up being less productive because you’re eagerly waiting for the next email or Slack message from your love or simply just thinking about your upcoming lunch break together.
- You could become the main topic of office gossip. This can be fun for a bit, but becoming a big target of gossip does nothing for your professional reputation and can even hurt it..
Yet (there’s always a yet), as mentioned above, NEVER date someone above or below you on the org chart.
- The lopsided power dynamics. Dating someone who has more – or less – authority in the company can cause all sorts of headaches. Colleagues could become jealous, thinking you received the promotion because of your relationship, not because you deserved it. Also, do you ever worry that your love could hurt your career if you decide to break up with them? That’s a textbook example of a lopsided power dynamic.
- You could be opening yourself – and your company – to a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Dating someone lower on the totem pole is never completely consensual.
It just isn’t.
Inc.com has the clearest explanation why, so here it is in full:
“[I]f a manager or executive is dating someone lower in the hierarchy, at any moment, that person could claim they felt pressured to begin or continue a relationship. Then you’ve got a sexual harassment complaint on your hand.”
If in doubt as to whether a relationship will be between two equals, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you in the same department? If so, do you both report to the same manager? Your relationship is ok.
- Are you in different departments and your individual managers are at the same level in the org chart? Your relationship is OK.
- Are you in different departments, but your manager reports to your love? Your relationship definitely is not OK.
- You’re in a different department, you’re not the manager of it, but your partner is the manager of another department. Your relationship is not OK.
- If both of you are managers and both report to the same person who oversees both of your departments? Your relationship is (probably) OK.
- Is your love your manager? Your relationship is not OK.
- Are you the manager of your love? You most definitely are tempting fate!
Do you see how complicated this can become? That’s why it’s best to be extremely careful about dating people at work. And, if you’re in doubt – and definitely if you’re certain – that the relationship may be one of lopsided power dynamics, one of you should find another job lickety-split, or you should end the relationship.
If you really want to know our take, if you really want to shake it out of us, here it is:
Because romantic work relationships can be so fraught, it’s best if you don’t date people at work.
No matter what the reason may be: if you’re hoping to find a new employer in the HR, accounting/finance, tech, marketing, or administrative sectors, take a look at our current contract, contract-to-hire and full-time career opportunities and apply.
If you don’t see anything that whets your whistle today, upload your resume/register with us: we’re constantly getting new opportunities from our terrific clients.
Next up in our “what you didn’t know you didn’t know” series: when a boss shames you publicly.