Sometimes, falling in love is not that easy to control. But, what if it happens in your place of work i.e. having a romantic relationship with your coworker. Isn’t that among the Don’ts of life?
You might just get yourself messed up in your working place and career.
Psychologist Art Markman at fastcompany’s ASK THE EXPERT once helped a lady out of such mess.
Foremost, read the lady’s side of the story:
I’ve committed one of the biggest professional don’t’s: I’ve started dating someone I work with.
I’ve checked the HR manual and the only mention of relationships in the workplace is that you can’t be the manager of someone that you are related to or romantically involved with, and neither is the case with us.
The man I’ve been seeing isn’t my boss and I’m not his, but we do work pretty closely together on a lot of projects (which is how our relationship bloomed). We’ve been seeing each other for a little over a month. I’m not sure where it’s going but if we continue to date, it might be hard to continue to keep it a secret.
We both really like each other so we don’t want to break up, and we’re always professional in the office. Is this something we have to bring up with our boss? Is there anyway this can work?
Art Markman, professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin figured this out:
It is not surprising that you have gotten into a relationship with someone at work. You spend about a third of your life while you’re awake at work. You meet a lot of people and you get to know them far better than the people you meet in many other settings.
The big reason why workplace relationships can cause problems is called the dual relationship principle. This term comes from the ethical principles given to treatment providers like clinical psychologists. The idea is that when a clinician treats a patient, they now have a doctor-patient relationship between them. Any other relationship (friend, lover, business) can cause a conflict-of-interest between that relationship and the clinical relationship. And so, clinicians are barred from having any other relationship with their patients.
This principle is also why HR manuals routinely have rules about supervisors and supervisees dating.
For other coworkers, there are no clear ethical problems with having a dual relationship, but it is important to be aware of the tension that these two roles can create both for yourselves and for the way you are perceived by your coworkers.
It is clearly possible to have a great relationship with a coworker. I have many friends who have been in long happy relationships with people they work with. But, here are some things to think about:
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Be honest at work.
One problem with working closely together at your job is that there are times that you are going to disagree about the direction of a project. It is hard enough giving criticism to coworkers and having workplace disagreements. When you layer the romance on top of it, it can be even harder to voice disagreements. You need to work hard to make sure workplace disagreements do not create personal problems.
Be honest with colleagues.
Right now, you’re at the start of a relationship. You might not even be at the point where you want to announce this relationship to your close friends. Once you are ready to be seen as a couple, though, you have to let your colleagues know.
Think a little about the worst-case.
One way to get a sense of how well you might be able to work with each other if the relationship doesn’t work out is to think about your current relationship with any former romantic partners you have had. Some people remain very good friends with their exes. Some do not. If one or both of you are the sort that cannot bear to be anywhere near your exes, then you need to be aware that if the relationship breaks up, that will create tension at work.
Maintain your other workplace relationships.
Success at work involves being connected to a lot of people. You need to know what is going on with your colleagues and with customers, clients, and people in other firms. One thing that happens early in a romance is that couples focus on each other more than on other people around them. That can be fine in personal relationships, but it is not fine at work. You need to continue going to lunch with colleagues, saving time for customers and clients. Do not let your desire to be with each other get in the way of the important workplace relationships you need to maintain.
Finally, although I have focused on potential problems, do bear in mind that a healthy romantic relationship with a coworker can also be a positive. If you are excited about the work you do, then you may be able to generate lots of creative solutions to problems by talking about those issues for hours in ways that might be impossible with other colleagues. You may bring out the best in each other in ways that will be very motivating.
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Art Markman, professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin. His latest book, Smart Change, focuses on how you can use the science of motivation to change your behavior at work and home.