Dear Liz: A co-worker and I have just started dating. I want to keep it secret (who knows how long it will last), but he feels we are better off being upfront. He’s not my manager, but he does manage a team I’m friendly with and work with frequently. What’s the best course of action? Hush-hush or here-we-are? – J.M., 25
Dear J.M.: Workplace romance is a very tricky issue. Thankfully we’ve evolved from the days when most office romances were between secretaries and bosses which was not exactly politically correct. Not to mention the old “she slept her way to the top” theory that didn’t help women if they started to like a co-worker.
Today, the line between work life and personal life which was once black and white has now become many shades of gray. In some cases, our life has become our work or some semblance of it. And how could it not be when we spend far more time at work building those relationships than anywhere else in our lives? It doesn’t lend us much time to meet other people and build other communities.
Additionally, Millennials (now the largest generation in the workforce) are shifting the culture with their desire for more collaboration and common spaces; it’s no wonder socializing at work is on the rise. A recent Vault.com study revealed that 57% of people have participated in some type of office relationship.
With that said, this is definitely not a “green light” for people to start dating on a whim. Office romances need to be handled very delicately by identifying what phase you are in and adhering to the following guidelines:
Phase 1: A Budding Romance
If you are in Phase 1-feeling the flutters but not sure if it will go the distance-be cautious:
Keep it quiet in the early stages: This is between you and your romantic interest only. Do not let other people connected to your work know about it even if they are good at “keeping secrets.” It’s not fair or smart to bring anyone else in, word travels fast and your reputation is on the line.