“Avoid office romance, you shouldn’t poop where you eat!”
Have you heard that one-liner before?
As I write this, it is 11 pm on a school night and I have just binged on a few episodes of The Bold Type. Without giving any of the plot away, someone just ended a solid relationship to pursue a career. A young, determined and highly talented woman gave up her chance at a happy ending with a colleague, in order to protect the image her peers would have of her. All of this despite the possibility of signing a consent form and declaring the relationship to HR.
Of course, this isn’t a recap of a show. Rather, the musings of a hopeless romantic who once lived by this very rule. And yet, breaking this exact rule is the one thing that gave me what I had always dreamed of. This leads me to wonder if we may have taken this professionalism thing a step too far. Perhaps things are overplayed just a tad bit? So, having been on both sides of the line, I thought it would be interesting to dive in and share my thoughts.
How your heart can affect your reputation
As a young woman in the corporate world, I have experienced a fair share of criticism and name-calling for office romance. It’s ironic how men get a pat on the back when they score a date with a lady. But at the exact same time, there is significant criticism shown towards the lady who willingly walked into the consensual relationship. Why is it that women are harshly judged for choosing their hearts? And why does the conversation have to be about choosing love over a career? Why not both?
While I agree that “a legal document cannot protect a reputation”, I wonder just how much value we should be giving to the misconstrued standards. Yes, a career is important and mixing business with pleasure can get messy if you choose to colour out of the lines. But when push comes to shove, you will be replaced without hesitation. So is it really worth losing something substantial for a company that sees you as just a number?
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Is office romance legit?
Dating, in general, is always a gamble and I have never fancied gambling with what I cannot afford to lose. Personally, I see my career as something I spent over sixteen years studying for. All of those sleepless nights and moments of questioning my intelligence… that is time I will never get back…. and yet I took a gamble.
For those of you who don’t know, I married my colleague. We may have worked in different countries at the time, but with the sticky internal web that comes with an international organisation, he may as well have been in the same room. So today I share a happy story of how an office romance turned into something beautiful, something real.
Related: Learning to love again
What happens when it goes south?
Like every relationship, there is a potential for an office romance to fail. Just because you have signed a declaration and submitted it to HR does not mean that your relationship is set in stone. If anything, it adds on a different sense of pressure for it to succeed.
By a show of hands, how many of you have seen a relationship thrive on pressure?
When it comes to dating in the office, a failed relationship can get messy. Not only because you have to see your ex every day, but because everyone else will know too. And when it comes to mixing business with pleasure, corridor chatter will be present. If I’m being honest, I married my colleague, he left the company and life has moved on. However, I still recall the corridor chatter that was a staple in the early days. Has it impacted how I do my job? Not at all. But has it impacted how I interact with others? Absolutely!
My truth is that I am still dealing with the noise, emotionally, but it isn’t the worst thing. So as a product of a successful office romance, I think the biggest question isn’t “will it work?” rather, “would I be okay if it didn’t?”
If that’s a no for you, please don’t poop where you eat.
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Conclusion: should you steer clear of office romance?
While I cannot answer this question for you, I can only share my views based on my experience. Sometimes, it’s worth the gamble of diving in and hoping for the best. Other times, you’d be foolish to be jumping into something that isn’t promising and hoping it will work out well. So if it something promising, I would risk it every time.
In all of my years working in the corporate world, I learnt the hard way that each of us is replaceable. We are merely just numbers that are valued for as long as we produce and earn our salary. It doesn’t matter if you work at Trump Empire or are a gatekeeper to heaven, you should never have to choose between your personal life and your career. If you are given the option to declare your relationship and carry on, do it. If that isn’t an option, is it really worth being a number in the ocean?
Would you date a colleague? Why or why not?
Psst! Let’s hang on social media.