Help! I'm Dating My Officemate!

How do you properly handle an office romance?

Office romances can be tricky. While it’s convenient to date someone who works in such close proximity, it can also be detrimental to your career if you don’t handle things well.

Jobstreet.com.ph invited me to do a Q&A session about how to properly handle office romances. Here’s a recap of what we talked about:

Q: What is the current standing of office relationships in our country? Are companies getting less tolerant of them?

A: Different companies have different policies about office romances, but I believe it's gaining more acceptance as long as you know your boundaries and maintain a professional demeanor. I have a friend who has been dating an officemate for several years, and she says their relationship doesn't get in the way of their work. When they are in the office, they make it a point to make their jobs their top priority.

Q: Would it be okay if a supervisor or a manager tries to hit on you? A lot of people think it's okay to date your boss, but some think it's inappropriate?

A: As long as it is done outside of the office and it doesn't make you and your officemates uncomfortable. I also think the important thing is transparency. If you're going to date an officemate, do it with integrity. The more you attempt to hide it, the more you are going to get judged. You might also want to consider switching departments if things get serious, just to avoid conflict of interest. No matter what you do, people will assume that you got promoted or got your way because of your relationship.

Q: How should couples act when faced with being the center of unsolicited attention at work?

A: Always take the high road. People are entitled to their own opinions, but it's up to you to decide how to respond to them. The way you react says a lot about the kind of person you are. If you try to fight every single person who has something bad to say about you, you are going to make a lot of unnecessary enemies. Just remember that at the end of the day, it is YOUR relationship and your choice. As long as you know you are not doing anything wrong or hurting anybody in the process, you don't owe anyone an explanation.  This is why it's important to be transparent and honest about your relationship. The more you hide it, the more people will talk.

Q: In the United States, we see TV shows where colleagues file paperwork in HR to declare their relationship status. Do you think that's a good idea to adapt in the Philippines? Or would it be something awkward or that goes against Filipino office culture?

A: There should be a boundary between your professional and personal interests. I don't think you need to declare your relationship status when you're just about to start a job (this shouldn't be a factor in your employment), but if you're already dating someone in the office, then by all means be transparent about it. Your relationship status shouldn't influence the company's decision to hire you or not.

Q: Here is a scenario: A company expressly prohibits employees to engage in romantic relationships. Should the couple take a risk and keep things hush-hush or should one or both of of them resign?

A: Ask yourself: "Is this relationship really worth the risk of losing my job?" If it is just an office fling, I don't think it is worth it. The only time you should consider resigning is if you know it's the real deal—meaning your relationship is actually going somewhere. I don't recommend trying to hide your relationship, especially if you know it is against your office's policies. No matter how hard you try to keep it hush-hush, someone is bound to find out about it. If you wish to pursue your relationship further, you need to have a real conversation with your partner. If one or both of you need to resign, it is a decision you need to make together.

Q: What's your take on same-sex office couples? Do you think they have it easier since they're less likely to be objects of suspiscion or are they more susceptible to ridicule and rumors?

A: I don't think gender makes office romances any easier or harder because everyone can be a victim of ridicule and rumors. Love does not discriminate.

Q: What is your advice for people who don't want to get into a relationship with their officemate because they're afraid things might go sour?

A:
Let's be honest, things will get awkward no matter what. People are usually scared of office romances because you see your partner every day and it might affect your career. It's really a test of your maturity. Just like any other relationship, it's a risk you take. Again, it goes back to knowing the boundary between your professional and personal life.

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