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Navigating Workplace Romance: A Guide for Keeping it Professional

Whether it’s a Christmas Party fling turned real-love connection or a long-term dating situation with your boss; there are a million legitimate reasons to believe that your workplace romance is a career-killer.

But before you start job-hunting or instigating an elaborate undercover dating operation, let us talk you through how to navigate having a romantic relationship with someone you work with.

Understanding the Legal Landscape

OK let’s start with the boring but very important bit. Before you even think about a workplace romance, it’s crucial to know the rules of the game – legally speaking. Some companies have specific policies that you might need to adhere to from the get-go. 

This is worth bearing in mind, especially if your relationship involves someone who you are supervising or vice versa. At the end of the day, organisations want to prioritise professionalism, minimise distractions amongst employees and of course, avoid sexual harassment in the workplace.

The good news is that your employers can’t ban you from dating a colleague. Not only is it a breach of human rights, but it’s generally accepted that these kinds of outright bans are totally ineffective. People just sneak around and try to keep their romance a secret. 

person in black long sleeve shirt holding babys feet

So start by reviewing your company’s policy. What’s their stance on workplace relationships? Are there disclosure requirements? For example, you may need to formally report the relationship status to your manager. If you work closely together, they may suggest adjustments that mean you moving departments or under increased supervision. 

If you’re unclear about the legal jargon, consider having a chat with your HR department so they can clear up any fuzzy areas and help you understand the implications of dating a colleague. 

Talk it through, like, a lot

Once you’ve figured that out, we suggest talking openly about how you and your partner will navigate the crossover between your work and personal relationships. 

What are your expectations around how you’ll act towards each other in the office? Can you pinpoint any particular scenarios where there could be some awkward moments? The same goes for your out-of-work life. Are you going to talk about work when you’re at home? Or can you set boundaries that allow limited discussions before drawing a line under business talk and let you focus on your love life? 

Assuming that your workplace is accepting of your relationship, there’s no need to keep it a hush-hush. But that doesn’t mean you get to start necking in the break room. The last thing you want is for your success at work to be hampered by your personal life, and surveys tell us that fifty-seven per cent of people say workplace relationships have impacted their work performance. 

No one wants to think about breakups, but it would do you both good, to be honest about the fact that you will still have to work together if the relationship turns sour. There’s no getting around the fact that the fear of splitting up with someone you work with might heavily affect your relationship, causing fear and anxiety around the repercussions on your career and emotional well-being. Discuss how you would make that work so that you’re both prepared for the worst. 

More on boundaries 

When you’re involved with a colleague, it’s wise to establish some ground rules. For starters, agree on exactly what personal information you’ll share with coworkers. No one (we repeat, no one) wants the intimate details of their sex life doing the rounds in the office. 

During work hours, focus on your job and save the relationship talk for when you clock off. If your work friends are also your out-of-hours friends, this might be tricky. Bite your tongue and talk to mates or family members who are completely separate from your workplace to protect both your privacy and maintain professionalism. 

At home, make it a point to discuss topics other than work. This might feel difficult at first, but encourage each other to reinforce this boundary when you feel the conversation steering towards office talk on date night. Your relationship needs to encompass a wide range of interests and not just shared workplace experiences. Lastly, avoid bringing any personal conflicts from home into the office. Keeping these spaces distinct helps in managing both your career and your relationship with as little drama as poss.

Tips for keeping work romance professional

  • Be honest and upfront with your employers and cooperate with any adjustments as much as you can.
  • Make sure your work performance is the best it can be. You want your skills to shine through, not your personal life. 
  • Avoid special treatment or inside jokes that might make others feel excluded or uncomfortable. 
  • Think about digital communication. This means no excessive texting or personal emails during work hours. 
  • Cover your back in case others assume you’re acting shady. This might mean asking for a third party to be present when it comes to work decisions or projects that involve your partner. Leading with transparency proves you have nothing to hide. 
  • Above all, accept that this is a potentially very complicated situation that won’t be easy but can be handled with discretion.

Have you had a workplace romance? How did you keep it profesh?


Team Nonchalant x

Fiona Fletcher Reid
Fiona Fletcher Reid

Fiona is a two-time author and freelance writer with words published in the Metro, Grazia, Readers Digest and Happiful Magazine. She runs online writing groups, loves tarot, live music and poetry.

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