8 Rules for Having a Serious Relationship with Someone at Work

Jim and Pam from the office laughing in the corner of a room.

If you ask a couple how they met, chances are they’ll say one of three things: online, through friends, or at work. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense that so many relationships begin at work. We spend a lot of time at the office—at least 40 hours per week, in most cases—and it’s the perfect place to get to know someone. But what are the rules for dating a coworker?

Once upon a time, it was easier to keep an office romance quiet. But in an age where we’re uploading our every move to Snapchat and tagging our every location on Instagram, it’s pretty easy to deduce who people spend their time with. If you’re dating someone you work with, it’s going to come out eventually. To keep your relationship happy and healthy, follow these rules for dating a coworker.

1. Keep your relationship separate from work.
This goes without saying—and it encompasses a lot—but we have to say it. One of the most important rules for dating a coworker is keeping things professional at the office. If you had a fight last night, don’t lash out at your boyfriend during a team meeting. If you’re feeling flirty, don’t make out with your girlfriend in the conference room. When you’re dating a coworker, you have to check your relationship at the door.

2. Don’t think you can keep your relationship a secret.
If you start dating a coworker, you definitely don’t have to tell people right away; it can be your little secret for a while. But people WILL eventually find out. That doesn’t mean you have to send a company-wide email announcing your love; you just have to be okay with the idea of people knowing about it. Even if you keep your relationship private, never leave the office at the same time, and don’t post about your relationship on social media, someone will find out. It’s 2018, and these types of things have a way of coming out.

3. Play by the company rules…
While many companies don’t mind, some have strict policies around coworkers dating each other. Check your company handbook and make sure you’re not violating any rules. Are you required to disclose your relationship to HR? Does it depend on what department you work in? If you find out that you can’t date but you still want to go for it, it’s important to know what you’re up against.

4. …and also set your own.
Set some ground rules with your partner. Will you ever get lunch together? Will you ever leave work together? Will you ever arrive at work at the same time? How will you handle people asking about your relationship? These things are seemingly small, but they will come up, and it’s important to put up a united front.

5. If you decide to go for it, be prepared for any possible outcome.
When you start dating anybody, there’s always a chance you might break up. But when you start dating a coworker, there’s a chance you might break up—and still have to see them every day. You should both be 100% confident that you’ll be cordial and respectful if the relationship ends. Otherwise, it could get messy.

6. Know that people ARE going to talk about your relationship.
There’s no two ways around it. Even if you’re in a healthy, loving, drama-free relationship, an office romance is still seen as something to gossip about. Just know that your coworkers are going to talk. They might pay too much attention to you, read too far into your every move, or pry for too many personal details. It’s not the end of the world, but it will happen, so just be prepared for it and don’t let them get to you.

7. Be prepared to learn some things that make you angry.
Normally, hearing about the behind-the-scenes details of your partner’s office is no big deal. But when their office is also your office, you might hear some things that were said behind closed doors about salaries and hiring decisions that make you do a double take. Decide what you’re comfortable hearing and go from there.

8. Talk about it.
Check in with each other and talk about how it’s going. The key to any successful relationship is communication. With the added stress of balancing your job and your relationship in one, it’s extra important to make sure you’re both happy and comfortable with how things are going.

Dating a coworker requires an extra layer of care, consideration, and communication. But if you’re prepared to go the extra mile to make it work, follow these rules and you’ll be happy at both home and work.

Elizabeth Entenman

Freelance Writer

Elizabeth is a freelance writer, editor, and advertising copywriter in Brooklyn. Right now, she’s probably somewhere Instagramming her dogs.

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