Should I Date a Coworker? Unpacking Workplace Romance


Dating, Career, Work / Tuesday, October 8th, 2019
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Workplace romance is one of the big should I, shouldn’t Is of being an adult. You spend somewhere close to 2,000 or more hours at work, around your coworkers and there are bound to be the occasional budding romances. But should you really date a coworker?

You’re at your desk, punching away as the clock ticks by, and all of a sudden the hot guy from accounting walks by and you start to think damn, if only. Truthfully, chances are he’s not that into you. Maybe he has a hot girlfriend, or even boyfriend, or is simply “taking time for himself.”

But what about that one time where the feeling is mutual? You end up hanging out together at a table at the yearly holiday party and maybe you end up nonchalantly making drink plans and BAM, you might be dating a coworker. And they’re cute. And you want to.   

According to Reporterlink’s workplace relationship statistics, 27 percent of people use the workplace to find a potential mate, and when specifically talking to millennial workers, that number goes up to 33 percent. So, if you are thinking about dating a coworker or using the workplace to source potential mates, you’re not alone. But should you?

The jury’s still out and no one seems to truly agree. There are pros and cons of dating a coworker, so let’s hash this out!

Common workplace romance problems

Let’s start with the problems that are associated with workplace romance situations because there are a ton of them. When it comes to workplace relationships and ethics, dating a coworker can be a bit of a grey area. 

This is especially the case when it comes to dating your boss—which, regardless of whether you’re pro or con workplace romance, you should never do. The power dynamics in workplace relationships are hard enough without adding a healthy dose of sex. 

Some common issues when it comes to romantic relationships in the workplace include:

  • Perceived favouritism which can really tear down the morale of the workplace. And, for the record, if your boss is also your boyfriend chances are it does exist, even if it’s not purposeful. And yes, people can pick up on that!
  • Gossip and rumours can be disrupting to the workplace as a whole and to your personal career. People are really nasty and don’t seem to have lives of their own, so chances are there will be rumours. 
  • Questions about consent and sexual abuse can arise, this is also especially the case in supervisor-subordinate roles. Even if it’s not the case, the perceived presence of these in the workplace can be a real problem. 

Besides the personal problems we discussed, employers tend to not like workplace romances because the parties are “distracted” at work—even in cases where they’re not they might appear or be perceived to be. Then, when and if a workplace romance dissolves, workplaces risk losing good workers. Plus, in the cases where someone is dating a coworker legal issues could arise, especially where there are perceived abuse and consent issues. 

Finally, when it comes to problems associated with coworkers dating, personal issues can start to bleed into the workplace. This can be highly disruptive to everyday work, they can affect the work of both parties involved and they can create a hostile work environment for others. 

Nasty workplace breakups

Not every relationship is meant to last. And not every party involved in those relationships is OK with that outcome. Having a nasty workplace breakup is definitely something that needs to be listed in dating coworkers pros and cons (obviously, the “cons” section). 

Breakups in general risk being bad, but when you’re coworkers, you’ll have to see each other on a relatively frequent basis. And that can be a problem. So to top off workplace romance issues, here are some common workplace breakup issues:

  • Your personal problems might become problems in the workplace. Like I mentioned earlier, personal issues can easily spill from the private into public in the case of workplace breakups.
  • A spurned lover (or one who thinks he got the raw end of the deal in the breakup) can sabotage your career. Especially in the case where one of the parties has more influence in the company. There’s no saying how a workplace romance will end and what it will be like if and when it ends.
  • A workplace can easily become a hostile environment for either parties or others after a personal relationship between coworkers ends. 

Once an office romance has ended, there can be some not-so-nice situations arise. So a possible breakup is definitely something you should consider before you get involved. 

a picture of a couple who are clearly in a workplace romance

Before you date a coworker

When it comes down to it, deciding to date a coworker is a personal decision. You may decide that despite the workplace romance issues that come about, it’s worth the risk. And in the end, it may even be. But before you do it, there are a few things you should definitely do:

Make sure that there is no policy against it. Not all workplaces have a policy against coworkers dating. In fact, I’d guess that not even half of them do. But some do have those policies, and if that’s the case, violating it could mean risking your job. So before you head out for that drink, make sure you check for any workplace romance policies that might exist. 

Tell the right people. Once a relationship is serious, it’s important that the right people within your workplace know about it so there isn’t trouble down the line. Yes, it can be awkward to share with your human resources or ethics teams. But in the long run, this can help you in navigating the minefield that is workplace romances. 

If the romantic object is your boss, try to change that. No, I’m not talking about quitting or getting yourself fired. But if you and your direct superior are dead set on dating, work out a plan that takes you out of that supervisor-subordinate position ASAP. If you’ve discussed the situation with your human resources team (or the other correct bodies), consider broaching the subject of someone moving departments in a boss-employee situation. Otherwise, you might come into issues down the road.

How to date a coworker without drama

If you’ve decided that, despite the cons, that a workplace romance is for you. Then here’s some unsolicited “dating a coworker advice” that you didn’t ask for and I probably don’t have any authority to give you:

Put on the breaks and take it slow. You’ll have to see each other every day regardless of how it works  

Set boundaries that everyone understands. When I mean “everyone” I clearly mean you and your partner. Boundaries will help ensure you can continue to have a great working relationship while building a personal one.

Keep your relationship professional at work. No nicknames, no PDA, no awkward forms of affection. And, in the beginning, until you know you plan on it being serious, consider dating a coworker secretly. No one else really needs to know, and honestly, with the workplace rumour mill chances are you don’t want anyone to know anyway.

Keep your love notes off your work computers and devices. Your poor IT team doesn’t need to read your love letters (yes, they do have access to them). Your boss doesn’t need an accidental reply-all. And ultimately, you don’t need to pass love notes anyway, it’s not high school!

Skip the joint business trips. Yes, it’s a nice idea to both ‘happen to be’ in Portland at the same time. But unless it’s actually unavoidable, save the vacations for your private not work time.

Have an exit strategy or backup plan. If you’re going to date a coworker, make sure you have a backup plan or exit strategy to deal with everything if it goes awry. I can’t tell you what that is for you, but make sure you have something set up.

So, should you date a coworker?

Regardless of the workplace romance pros and cons, regardless of whether dating coworkers is a bad idea or a good one, it ultimately comes down to whether or not you want to.

It’s a personal decision. So long as you’re not violating rules, it’s consensual (seriously, I shouldn’t have to say that) and you’re prepared to deal with any consequences that may end up coming of it, then you do you girl. 

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