The question: Should I date my co-worker and mix business with pleasure? I take my work seriously but I'm torn because I don't want to pass up the opportunity of meeting someone great either. Office romances seem to work for some, but could I be complicating matters?
The answer: Ah, the office romance: tempting, and (potentially) highly troublesome.
Good on you for approaching this cautiously and thoughtfully – as the best thing you can do is weigh the pros and cons and have an open conversation with your co-worker/romantic interest before anything ensues.
There are a number of considerations when it comes to work, the object of your affection, and your knowledge of yourself.
With respect to work, how closely do the two of you work together and what is your professional relationship? Dating a co-worker who works on a different floor in a company of 300 is different than dating someone whose cubicle is next to yours in a startup company of 10. What is your reporting relationship? If either of you are in a position of power (i.e., supervisory or potentially evaluative role), it's probably best to not go down that road. And, how important is this position to you? Are you on a time-limited contract where you see an end in sight to your position, or is this a permanent role and an employer you foresee staying with for the long-term?
What do you know about your co-worker? What are the qualities that you are attracted to? Is this someone who makes dating co-workers a habit? Is it just a short-term infatuation/physical attraction, or from the information you have is this truly someone you could see in your life for a period of time?
Finally, be brutally honest with yourself and how you are in relationships. Past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour, so ask yourself how you have dealt with relationships that didn't work out in the past. Are you someone who is able to stay grounded and remain cordial with those you have dated? Are you someone who becomes overly attached very quickly, and becomes highly emotional or upset when even short-term dating situations don't work out?
If, after considering the above, you feel that the benefits of pursuing this relationship outweigh the potential cons, have a candid conversation with your co-worker. Lay the concerns you have out on the table and listen to their perspective. If you both decide to proceed, be mindful of going slow and steady, given the stakes are higher if things don't work out. Also try to hold off on getting physically involved until you know there is compatibility in terms of personalities and short and long-term relationship goals.
The reality is that the workplace often becomes the predominant place we meet people (both friends and romantic interests), particularly as we move out of our 20s. And as a result, why pass up something that potentially could be highly fulfilling and meaningful.
Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych., is a clinical psychologist and organizational & media consultant. She is the host of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network's Million Dollar Neighbourhood and is the psychological consultant to CITY-TV's The Bachelor Canada. Her website is www.drjotisamra.com and she can be followed @drjotisamra
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