Love at work

Whether you’re falling in love with your colleague, or had sex with your boss, work relationships can be the start of something beautiful, or get messy very quickly. Just beware of the pitfalls before you carried away.

office workers playing footsie

If you scratch my foot, I'll scratch yours...

Should I date my co-worker?

First things first, are you allowed? Some companies have a no-romance clause in their employment contracts. Check before you dry hump Barry from accounts at the office Christmas party.

Next, do you really fancy them, or are you just bored at work? Try and be self-aware here before you potentially screw up your career.

“If you’re someone who falls in love every couple of weeks, don’t date people from work,” says Beverley Stone, a relationship psychologist. “However, if it’s really rare for you to like someone and you’ve fallen hard for a colleague, then I don’t see why you shouldn’t go for it.”

Then – sorry to burst your love bubble and all – but you need to think hard about how you would handle things if it didn’t work out. Do you have the communication skills necessary to break up with them if you stop fancying them after a few dates? What if they dump you and you sit opposite them? Could you handle that? Only proceed if the answer is yes.

Should I sleep with my boss?

Boss = power. Power = sexy. Your urges are pretty normal. Acting on them, however, needs to be guided by your brain tissue, not your loins.

Be honest with yourself here. “Ask yourself, ‘am I in love with this person, or am I in love with this person in this role?'” says Beverley. Do you fancy their power? Or the person? And if it’s both, can you handle that power imbalance outside office hours?

At the end of the day, they’re your boss. But out of work, you’re an independent individual who deserves an equal relationship. How would you feel about giving crap to your boss if they cancel a date last minute to go out with their friends? Or if they order you about away from the office? Think this through and negotiate how it would work with them before you dive into bed (or the stationary cupboard).

When should we tell the rest of the office?

Not straight away. Don’t burst in after your first date, clutching your chest, and announce dramatically ‘WE’RE IN LOVE’. Make sure it’s ‘serious’ first – so maybe see how things go for three months, and then start to tell people.

People WILL find out, so don’t try and keep it a secret forever. “Make sure you tell people before they make up their own story of what’s happened,” says Beverley. “It’s only fair that your team know because it will affect the dynamic. Be prepared to be talked about.”

It goes without saying that you should always conduct yourself in a professional manner at work, and never let your relationship affect things. It won’t go down well with anyone.

What if the relationship goes sour?

If you get dumped

Being on the passive side of a breakup is never fun. And seeing your dumper daily doesn’t exactly help the healing process. But it can be made more bearable with a good dose of positive thinking.

“Try not to spiral into negative thinking and upset your self-esteem,” says Beverley. “Catch yourself whenever you think ‘it’s because I’m unattractive’, or ‘they don’t like me’ and change the thought to ‘we have different values, it didn’t work out, but it will with someone else'”.

If you’re the dumper

Riiiiight, this could be awkward. Make sure you have an honest chat with them, but be nice. Something along the lines of ‘you’re a lovely person, but I don’t think we have enough in common’. Then discuss together how you can get on with your jobs.

They might well cry, or get really mad and you’ll need to work through that together. Sit down and thrash things out – neither of you want to upset your career.


Next Steps

  • Acas offers free advice about everything to do with employment law. 0300 123 1100
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Holly Bourne

Updated on 29-Sep-2015