Avoid drawing attention to your office romance by maintaining professional distance.

How to Date a Coworker Discreetly

by Anthony Oster

When Cupid's arrow strikes and draws you toward another co-worker, you'll probably want to be discrete about your dating, but you should know you're not alone. According to a 2007 CareerBuilder.com study, 43 percent of respondents reported dating someone they worked with, and more than a third of these office romances ended in marriage. But even if your relationship is discreet and consensual, it may complicate your professional life or make you the target of gossip, speculation and unwarranted attention from your boss, coworkers and peers.

1. Check With Human Resources

Check with your human resources department before considering dating in secret. While this contradicts the idea of dating discretely, even if your relationship goes unnoticed for months or years, your employer may have policies enacted that prohibit interoffice romance. Many employers have their policies on interoffice romance available on file or on the Web, enabling you to look into these policies without alerting anyone to what's going on in your private life. Though it is sometimes frowned upon, many employers understand that romances within the office are natural and may only require that you disclose the relationship to your human resources professional and sign a waiver of liability.

2. Maintaining Professionalism

To prevent others from discovering your your office romance, maintain professional boundaries at all times. This includes avoiding talking about your relationship at work, planning dates during the work day and displaying any signs of public affection at the office. Even attending lunch together may raise eyebrows and cause other coworkers to question your motives and productivity.

3. Work Politics

Work politics exist in every work environment to different degrees. The political nature of your office may also dictate if and how you pursue a romance with your co-worker. If you or your co-worker is in a position of superiority to the other, your relationship may be seen as a form a favoritism or nepotism when subjects such as raises or promotions are brought up. Furthermore, if word does get out that you have dated co-workers in the past, dating within the office may leave you with the reputation as someone who dates others in the office for personal gain.

4. Keep it Offline

While many couples willingly post photos of themselves and self-identify as being in a relationship on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, this type of activity could immediately blow your cover and land you in hot water with your employer. Privacy controls for services such as Facebook can also prevent others from posting comments or photos of you together to your public newsfeed.

5. Avoid Traveling Together

Whether you travel on frequent business trips or simple want to ride too and from work with you significant other, traveling together can also raise eyebrows and cause your co-workers to question your relationship status. Traveling together on business may also compromise your expense reports if your employer calls into question your choice of meals, entertainment and hotel lodging on the grounds that company money cannot be used to support personal dates.

About the Author

Anthony Oster is a licensed professional counselor who earned his Master of Science in counseling psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has served as a writer and lead video editor for a small, South Louisiana-based video production company since 2007. Oster is the co-owner of a professional photography business and advises the owner on hardware and software acquisitions for the company.

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