| August 6, 2012

Several years ago, an adorable thirty-year-old named Emily bought the apartment next to mine in New York City. I was impressed that this single young woman was independent enough to purchase her own home. Emily explained to me that she had been on a frantic dating track leading nowhere for many years, thus she decided to pull back from dating and get on with her life as a fulfilled single. That plan worked well until she met Bob, an affable guy who was a recent hire at her company. Interestingly, they were both from the Minneapolis area, and they both loved biking and dogs. Within a few months, Emily had a serious relationship and I had a new neighbor. Several years later, happily married, they moved back to Minneapolis to start a family.

I love stories like this and have heard many similar ones over the years. It’s very natural and common to date someone from your office or industry. After all, this is where we spend the majority of our time, and we have a lot in common with our colleagues. I actually met my husband through a job — he worked at a company that I did business with. This made for an exciting dating experience because we had a lot of shared interests and knew a bunch of the same people. But never did I stop to think for a moment, “What would happen if we broke up?” We worked in a small industry in a small town; it probably would have been awful for both of us.

The best daters I know use what I call a “360-degree approach,” and this means they are completely open to meeting all sorts of prospective suitors in a variety of different ways. So yes, I think it is OK to consider dating someone at work. By “consider,” I mean having your eyes wide open to the potential pitfalls of dating the cute guy who works on the 12th floor. If you think love is within reach at your job, following these rules can help you have a smooth experience:

  • Don’t do anything to jeopardize your job. Find out if there are rules regarding inter-office dating before proceeding forward.
  • Ask yourself how you are going to feel about seeing someone you are dating every single day, for hours at a time. That could be stressful and feel claustrophobic.
  • Having a relationship at work can be all-consuming. Be sure you are able to concentrate, behave professionally and perform well at your job. 
  • Be careful not to divulge personal information about your job, colleagues or your company to the person you are dating. This can seriously endanger your job, and in some instances, it is actually illegal. Dating a boss or someone who reports to you can be complicated. Remember, there are laws protecting employees against sexual harassment and people can be extremely vindictive after a breakup.
  • Ask yourself how you are going to feel if you break up with this person and have to see them every day. I have counseled people whose exes work at the same company, and it can be brutal. Healing is much more complicated when you have to see the person who broke your heart every day.
  •  Many affairs happen at the workplace, which is difficult and even dangerous. Please think twice (or more than twice) before stepping out if you are in a relationship or getting involved with someone who is committed to another.