The reality of work relationships: Co-workers in love
Thursday, June 30, 2016
There are 168 hours in a week. Assuming a modest seven hours of sleep per night, removing those 49 hours leaves us with 119 waking hours. Working a full-time job, we commit more than a third (approximately 37 percent) of our waking hours going to, being at and returning from work. Thus, it is understandable why and how we develop personal relationships with our co-workers.
However, problems can arise when relationships become intimate. This series will take a look at workplace relationships from three perspectives: the employer, the high-risk employee and the in-love co-workers. Let's start with love.
You have met the person of your dreams and have the good fortune of seeing her every day. At first, her presence inspires you to take a second longer picking out your clothes, but it quickly evolves to adjustments to your lunch plans, slight changes to the path you take through the office, and an increased interest in group happy hours where she will be.
You find yourself smiling more at work, enjoying what you are doing and happily spending more time in the office. Congratulations on your new love. At this point it is to ask yourself a few things for the sake of your budding romance and your career.
1. Does your employer have a policy against romances? If yes, read it and take a minute to understand the implications. If not, you are not off the hook yet.
2. Are you in each other's chain of command? Regardless of whether your company has a policy, this is going to be an issue. Figure out how you will handle it before it goes too far. Understand that if you try to keep it a secret, you both risk being fired. If you come out in the open about it, it is likely one or both of you will at best not have the same job after the conversation.
3. Do you in any way affect each other's work product? Even if you do not report to each other, your relationship can compromise the integrity of company systems. Consider if you process her expenses or her bonus checks. Or if you have some influence over her boss or co-workers. Few companies are large enough for two people to be completely separate from each other.
4. Is one of you willing to leave the company to maintain the relationship? If you are in love and any of the above hold true, this is an important question to answer up front.
5. Do you plan to keep your relationship a secret? Or have you already invited Steve from accounting to be your best man? Being open leaves you open for judgment and assumptions from everyone in the office. No one will ever believe that you do not talk about work outside of work. Conversely, being secretive is difficult, and the risk of being found out could cause more problems than if you were open in the first place.
6. Do you use any work resources to perpetuate your romance? IM, email, expensed lunches — be wary of anything that might link you two with use of work materials. It is inappropriate at best.
7. What happens if this all goes sideways? Always one to be the cynic, my first and last question is always about exit strategy. What if this true love does not blossom into what you both thought it would? Will you be the second people in history to have an amicable breakup?
The list of issues is long and is explored in our next article on high-risk employees.
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