Despite #MeToo, Office Romances Are Here to Stay
Q: When I met my new boss, I was instantly attracted to him. He didn't wear a wedding ring, but he was very businesslike, so I also behaved professionally. We started having lunch together once a week and talking only about business. We've gotten into some personal, but not invasive, conversations. He knows I am single, so I am wondering if and how I can let him know I am interested. I would never interfere with a marriage or any committed relationship, but he never mentions a wife or family at all. It takes two to tango, and I have no respect for people who cheat, so if he is married or involved, I would not even think about it. But I also know that many couples end up meeting at work, so I want him to know I would be interested if he asked. I also don't want him to feel awkward if he is not interested. Any suggestions?
A: You have chosen an awkward time in history to fall into this situation. The #MeToo" movement affects you, regardless of how you felt when women began coming forth with their experiences of victimization. It has put both men and women on alert, as the personal behavior they bring to the workplace can make or break their careers. If you decide to pursue the possibilities for a relationship, keep this in mind.
Many married men go "ringless," so don't assume that means your boss is single. It's easy enough to find out a person's marital or dating status through your own research, but despite your findings, you must maintain a proper professional relationship with him at work, no matter what else happens in your personal life. You may see him daily, so any advances or interest you show in him personally could cause him to be leery of you. You may be well intentioned, but he doesn't know that. Always place yourself in the other's position before saying anything or taking any action. You also should search the employee handbook -- which, if one exists, is distributed to all employees -- to see if the company has a specific policy on dating and romantic relationships within the company. The safest approach is to let your work relationship take its natural course. It takes time to develop a good working relationship, and you will only complicate matters if you rush into a situation you think you want.
According to a 2016 Gallup poll, more than 45 percent of workers have experienced at least one office romance. Although romantic relationships within a workplace are common (this is where most workers spend their time), all must take care that their behavior remains respectful to others. It is critical not to behave in a way that threatens a person's safety, creates fear or awkwardness for the worker to perform his or her job or promotes an obligation to a relationship in order to continue working in the job.
According to CareerBuilder's Annual Valentine's Day Survey conducted through the Harris Poll found that 22 percent of workers have dated their boss, 31 percent of workers who started dating at work ended up getting married, nearly 1 in 10 female workers whose workplace romance soured then left their jobs and 41 percent of workers had to keep their office romance a secret.
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If a person is active on Facebook, he or she is best advised to limit postings to accomplishments, events, fundraising causes and anything one would think newsworthy. People often forget employers can look into an employee's Facebook activities, which has, at times, caused employees to lose jobs. Plus, almost everyone has a smartphone with a camera, so privacy has all but disappeared.
Triton Benefits & HR Solutions (a national human resources and employee benefits company -- TritonHR.com) suggests creating a workplace dating policy, not to form a restrictive environment, but to clearly communicate acceptable behavior. Some suggestions are as follows: educate all workers on sexual harassment and hostile work environments; develop procedures for filing and investigating complaints, and for corrective action when necessary; create guidelines for acceptable behavior between involved parties; implement signed agreements (the "love contract") between two personally involved workers if the company has a rule of not hiring both partners in a marriage.
Email your workplace issues and experiences to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about career and life coach Lindsey Novak, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com, and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/at-work-lindsey-novak.