Dos & Don’ts Dating In The Workplace

Are you crushing on a co-worker? Do you go for it or walk away? Read our how to guide and handy hints on navigating a relationship in the workplace (or not).
 |  Maxwell Elliff  |  Life & Wellbeing

Crossing the friend-zone into romantic territory with someone can be challenging enough. When that person is a co-worker, it’s a different beast entirely. What might begin as harmless fun can quickly morph into a living nightmare.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “don’t sh*t where you eat”, yet relationships continue to bloom between colleagues in significant numbers. 

A 2021 survey from SEEK found nearly a  quarter of responders had previously dated  a co-worker, and an international poll by found that over almost half respondents said they would choose love over career when it came to dating in the workplace.

So what gives? 

I have been working in bars and clubs on Sydney’s gay scene for over seven years. You may think I’d have dates lined out the door.

However as you might guess, a ‘10’ quickly drops to a ‘3’ after that sixth vodka-lime-soda kicks in. At closing time the last thing I feel like doing is hanging with someone I’ve just witnessed get progressively messy by last call.

But, do you know who isn’t a sloppy drunken mess at the end of a night? Yep, it’s the guy working next to me (well, let’s hope).

I’ve dated my fair share of colleagues to varying success over the years, so you could say I’m something of a workplace dating expert by now. However, I will note that you should take all my advice here with a good spoonful of salt and know that I’m definitely not a professional relationship authority, that’s for sure.

Having said that, let me share my personal list of dos and dont’s for workplace dating.

  • DO keep it on the ‘down low’. The fewer people who know about it the better, at least in the early stages. There is nothing worse for your budding romance than becoming the hot gossip on everyone’s lips. Plus, what’s steamier than a secret fling?

  • DON'T do it if there’s a power imbalance. This is tricky but vital.  If you’re seeing your superior and it turns sour, they have the power to gift you the most undesirable tasks (hello toilet-cleaning duty!)  or impact your roster. If you’re seeing someone beneath you, they can formally complain, which could affect your future prospects (#MeToo movement anyone?). It’s just not worth it. 

  • DO lean on each other for support. You are blessed to be with someone that understands the pressures you face — because they face them too! You work the same hours, tackle the same problems and get the same downtime. Listen to each other and be that beacon of light when the road gets rough. 

  • DON'T cling on past the expiry date. Real talk — most relationships are destined to fail. If it reaches an end point, let it end. The sooner you each move on the less suffering long-term. Let time and space do its work.

  • DO set clear boundaries. Is it open or closed? Is it a casual tryst or are you committed to the long haul? Take time once it gets more serious to be upfront and honest about the terms of the relationship. You both just like hooking up? Keep it that way. If you can’t get on the same page now, don’t expect to in the future.

  • DON'T bad mouth the other party when you’re at odds. While it may be tempting to vent to your colleagues, you will only add fuel to the fire and, frankly, make yourself appear as the villain. Present yourself as the bigger person by keeping things professional and civil.  Your actions can and will influence theirs. 

  • Do find shared interests and hobbies outside of work. Like any successful coupling, discovering common ground is key. No one wants be with someone who is all work and no play. Explore external interests. Interests are hot. 

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When it comes to love and work, 46% of respondents said they would choose to date a co-worker even if some thought it might affect their career, according to a survey by global employment giant

  • 39% opposed any workplace romance, saying that dating a colleague at work was a bad idea.
  • 15% thought that a workplace romance would not harm their career, but they would still never date a colleague.
  • 19% said that while an office romance might be challenging at work, they would still ‘go for it’ anyway!
  • 27% said the workplace was a good place to find love, and they had no issues dating a colleague.

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