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 A few short years ago, dating a colleague was tantamount to career suicide. Fortunately, the rules have relaxed somewhat. While this makes sense given that the amount of time you spend at work, it makes the likelihood that you’ll meet someone you like at work more probable, it’s still advisable to tread carefully: dating a co-worker may not be as simple as you think.

Before you make any moves in this direction, it’s a smart idea to discuss what the policy on office dating is with the HR Department in your firm. It may be that the policy prohibits it, in which case you would be very unwise to pursue the relationship. If HR is fine with it, you still have a number of other things to consider before you take the plunge.

A good place to start when considering the pros and cons of office dating is the end of the relationship. Both parties need to give careful thought as to how they will feel if the relationship ends. Bear in mind that even if it ends badly, if one of you is humiliated or heart broken, you’ll still need to go to work and face that person in a professional environment.

As many who have been through messy office romance endings can attest – it’s neither easy nor pleasant. And even though it’s not as much of a taboo as it used to be, dating a co-worker can have a negative impact on your career. Bottom line – office dating is not something you should enter into lightly; if the relationship doesn’t work out, it’s likely you’ll be dealing with much more than the break-up blues.

If you’ve decided to forge ahead unfazed, decide in advance whether you’re ok with being open and honest about the fact that you’re seeing a colleague, or whether this is something you would prefer to keep private – even if it’s just in the initial stages of the relationship.

Even if you’re happy for everyone to know about the relationship, keep your behaviour professional, and do your best not to make other co-workers uncomfortable with public displays of affection or oversharing personal information – they still have to maintain a professional relationship with your partner. For example, sharing that he wears his lucky underpants on Wednesdays may not be entirely appropriate.

Of course, there are certain relationships that are just not worth pursuing – no matter how modern the working world becomes in its thinking. Dating a manager or any other superior will always be a bad idea; as is dating someone who reports into you. Ultimately, this can cause untold damage to your professional image and is not something that employers generally will condone.

Ultimately, the decision to date, or not to date, a co-worker is yours to make; however, it’s important to note that there is a lot more at stake than with another relationship you would enter into outside of the working environment. Make your decision with caution.  

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