We’ve all, at some point in our careers, been involved in or witnessed a workplace romance (or, at the very least, had a crush on a coworker). Many folks, from CEOs at scrappy startups to neurosurgeons at the best hospitals in our region, have, at one point, dated someone they work with.
Here’s my story: While living in a high-rise apartment complex far more expensive than I could afford, I met a neurosurgeon who lived across the hall. Serious dating was off the table — my wide-open availability as a freelancer didn’t mesh with his 18-hour days and constant on-calls that ruined our happy hours. During our fleeting conversations that were constantly cut short thanks to a drunken-driving accident or some other major incident, I did glean a little insight into the industry: When you’re young and work in a hospital, everyone dates everyone.
After all, have you seen Grey’s Anatomy? The show may be highly fictionalized, but my neurosurgeon boyfriend pointed out there is some truth to those seemingly far-fetched storylines. And there are no workplace rules to stop it.
At many companies, including a few I’ve worked for, dating in the workplace is frowned upon. There are many good reasons for that. When small companies work in tight spaces, a bad breakup can negatively impact the productivity of the entire company, causing teams to slow each other down and thereby slow the company.
It seems, though, that as these companies grow — and those 20-somethings become mature enough to handle a real relationship and a breakup — those unwritten rules are overridden by relationships that are kept quiet for the benefit of the company. At one local startup, an unofficial no-dating policy was in place when the headcount was under 50 about five years ago. Today, there are several long-term couples, including one planning to get married within the year. The difference? Everyone’s just a little bit older, more mature, and ready to handle real relationships, not just react to fleeting feelings. And the company supports this.
Dating in the workplace can be tough to navigate depending on your company’s culture and policies. If there’s a strict rule in the handbook, it’s probably best for you to find your next significant other through friends, online, or local meetups. The Eastside has dozens of meetups, including some designed specifically for singles. Meetup.com is a great place to look for options.
If your workplace has an unofficial policy, you may want to keep a new relationship quiet to avoid not only causing drama, but also to prevent any lack of productivity at work. If things don’t work out, this will also prevent your work friends and your professional team from drama that could impact the bottom line.
Of course, if your company gives you and your co-workers the green light to explore relationships, just be sure you treat everyone with respect. The last thing anyone wants to do is go to work and feel like they are in the middle of a bar scene. Remember, this is a place where people go to do what they (hopefully) love, to make an impact on something they believe in, and to earn an income. Going above and beyond trying to find “the one” at work will alienate everyone else — and perhaps get you fired.