15 Feb 2022

The etiquette of an office romance

As we return to more conventional working practices, we might very well find ourselves succumbing to the thrills and dangers of a workplace romance.

While it is inevitable that colleagues will, occasionally, fall for each other, office romance can also be very disruptive to office dynamics. The turmoil and excitement of a new affair may supplant, or even obliterate, more workaday concerns. Colleagues who are forced to observe an unfolding affair at close quarters may feel aggrieved, or sidelined. A new couple may pose a threat to their colleagues, who may end up feeling like gooseberries, excluded from the confidences and intimacy enjoyed by lovers. When workplaces confidences become the stuff of pillow talk, office romance can stray into dangerous territory.

People in love tend to do silly things. They forget that there are other people in the world, other important events, other pressing needs. They believe, albeit subconsciously, that they can attend to their duties with a mind that is at best limping along on 25 per cent of normal concentration. And above all they are oblivious of almost everything around them and unaware that critical colleagues are closely observing their behaviour.

Even more complications arise when the passion crosses strata within the office hierarchy – for example when a boss falls for a junior, or vice versa. The best thing for the parties involved to do is keep quiet about the whole thing. A private secret is better than public resentment. Once such an affair becomes notorious, both parties will be subject to intense scrutiny, and any failing in carrying out the job will be roundly condemned. Should either or both of the parties already be married, then the condemnation will be bitter.

Illicit affairs in the office – when married colleagues form a relationship – pose particular problems. They may well put colleagues who know the spouses of the individuals concerned in a particularly invidious position, and therefore the couple involved should do their utmost not to compromise their co-workers.

Notes for Office Lotharios

•Lovers shouldn’t expect everyone else to share in their joy.

•Work has to come before passion in paid office time.

•There is always a limit to people’s patience, and the limit is usually nearer than lovers imagine.

•Lovers often go hand in hand. Love and promotion seldom do.

•The more the relationship is kept under control, the happier the rest of the office will be.

•If the affair comes to an end it may be impossible to go on working together. If the affair doesn’t come to an end it may also be impossible to go on working together.

Keep it private

If you become romantically involved with a colleague at the office, the simplest way to avoid a scandal is to leave that romance outside the office; the further away the better. Here are a few precautionary reminders to office sweethearts:

•Don’t think public transport is safe – others from the office may use the same route occasionally if not regularly.

•Office lovers should not give or send cards or flowers to each other on birthdays, unless intending to do the same for everyone else in the office.

•When alone in a room, office lovers should remember that it is never possible to spring apart in time when someone else comes in.

•Office radar is highly effective; you may think you’re being discreet but your colleagues will undoubtedly be on to you.

•One of the most common early indications of romance is a deterioration in work standards clear to all.

•Don’t misuse the intimacy, and confidentiality, of a romantic relationship to wield power and influence over your colleagues.


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