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Navigating a Relationship at Work

Once you graduate from high school or college, your immediate access to meeting people and forming intimate relationships rapidly diminishes. I remember when I left college and began working in a job heavily weighted with women; I was a nurse on a pediatric unit that was staffed with ALL women.

The only men I saw during the day were medical students, interns and doctors. This was before Internet dating – when personal ads in the paper were all the rage. It felt downright WEIRD to post a 150 character ad about myself, or even to answer one.

But I did it anyway. Being weird hasn’t seemed to stop me from trying something that didn’t put me into too much danger. I couldn’t stomach answering any of the letters that came though – so I didn’t meet anyone.

It was two years after graduation and I wasn’t meeting anyone. I had broken an engagement with a man who had hid his alcoholism (and later grew into a successful motivational speaker) and was meeting absolutely no one.

I didn’t go to bars because I didn’t want to meet someone who enjoyed going to bars. I never had time to talk with any of the male doctors who visited our unit and meeting guys anywhere else just didn’t seem to be happening.

In the interim I got a dog to keep me company at night. And then my neighbor introduced me to a guy she worked with and within 9 months I was married. To say it was fast is an understatement – engaged at three months. And, definitely something I would never do again – or recommend that you do either.

No matter how much you think you love someone – there are things you learn over time and you want to learn them BEFORE you get married.

So now you’re left with meeting guys through your friends (who likely work in the same place you do!), online or in other groups you may belong to.

My sister and brother-in-law met at work. I have two other friends who met their spouses at work. But I also know several who dated guys at work and when it ended the work environment was poisoned by their dislike of each other. It wasn’t long before the boss was asking one or the other to transfer or quit – or just act like they didn’t know each other.

My ex-sister-in-law and brother-in-law made a decision early in their relationship that was incredibly mature – and required one of them to make a compromise. Once they started dating and realized it could be serious, one of them transferred out of the department.

Have you ever watched the tv series “The Office”? In the sit-com, there are several relationships that come and go, and one that culminates in a marriage. But, at almost no time does this small office deteriorate after one women is found to be engaged to one man and sleeping with another. Nor does the atmosphere become toxic when one woman has an on-again off-again relationship with a guy in the office.

But this is NOT reality.

When relationships dissolve there is usually one party who feels they’ve been wronged – and that person will likely have a difficult time accommodating to working in the same place as the person who – cheated, left them for someone else or decided they were not looking for a serious relationship.

So how can you navigate having a relationship and still keeping your job?

Here are 5 tips to get your started . . .

Check your HR policy:

Some workplace policies forbid dating co-workers. In some companies you have to notify HR and sign an agreement. But, most companies DO have an HR policy about dating people who work in the same department – and sometimes in the same company.

Stay away from flirting in the office:

You might have a relationship with someone outside the office, but everyone in the office isn’t interested in watching your romance blossom. Flirting, touching, and other public displays of affection are in bad taste and bad manners. They also make it more difficult to go back to working together if the romance fizzles.

Avoid conflicts of interest:

Dating your direct superior – or the person ABOVE your direct superior can make it difficult for the people in your office. When I worked at a hospital in Indianapolis one of the people in my office was dating a manager three levels above me. It didn’t bother me, but it irritated my boss no end. She kept thinking Sue’s boyfriend and then husband would get upset with her if Sue felt slighted in the least.

People react differently so it’s best to avoid any conflict of interest and to remember that, for the most part, relationships are very important in life. If this relationship feels like it might be serious, it could be worth discussing a transfer or a different job with your amour.

Prioritize your schedule:

Working all day with someone, and then seeing them in the evening can quickly become overwhelming. Plan your time and schedule so you each have time to be apart from each other, which will help your relationship to grow.

Avoid gossip:

This is good advice no matter what. If you and your guy do break up, steer clear of talking about him at work, gossiping about what he’s done or is doing. This is a two pronged problem – if people hear you gossiping they will assume you also will gossip about them. And it’s likely the gossip will get back to your guy.

Of course you need to talk it out – so choose a good friend, talk with them and then let it go. The advice is easy – the execution may be more difficult.

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