Fatal Attraction: Why Workplace Romance is (Usually) Bad News

There are two Valentines Days. The first is for people who are dating, married or otherwise involved with another of their species. For them, today is all about scrambling at the last minute to come up with flowers or chocolate or dinner reservations or little candies that say “I wuv u.” The other Valentines Day is for single people, and the only scrambling that they have to do is is to get away from all the flowery hearts floating about in the air. In honor of this most auspicious of holidays, today’s blog is all about the sticky situations that can result from office romances gone awry. 

Now it’s no mystery why people so often get involved with their co-workers. Spending 40+ hours a week with someone can nourish any sized seed of attraction into a full blown vine of desire, snaking it’s way from the butterflies in your stomach to the mushy puddle where your brain used to be. What starts off as an innocent jaunt to Starbucks on Monday can turn into a full blown date to see Robocop by Thursday night.

Unfortunately, this close proximity also makes things really awkward when the relationship eventually peters out or blows up in your face. Now, I don’t want to sound like too much of a pessimist on international love day, but unless you end up marrying your co-worker (which 31% do, surprisingly enough), then it’s either dump or be dumped.

All heartbreak and awkwardness aside, an office romance going south can have some unpleasant impacts on your career. According to this Inc. article on office romances, merely dating inside the company has forced many C-level executives to step down in recent years (and a lot of these guys were single). For the rest of us, the most common issues associated with office romance are favoritism, harassment and discrimination. The risk of these potential HR nightmares is increased tremendously if the relationship is between a supervisor and one of their employees.

So what can you do? Sure you could ban office romances, but that won’t stop them from happening, not completely anyways. That sort of policy will just drive the problem underground, making it impossible for you to mediate the situation until it’s too late. As awkward as it might be, one of the best options for dealing with this romantic eventuality is getting it in writing. That way, if (when) things get ugly, there are clear procedures in place protecting everyone involved. For more on the potential pitfalls of dating at work, check out the Inc article. Oh, and Happy Valentines Day from Accolo!

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