The attraction may have taken you by surprise, you might be delighted, or it may have slowly crept up on you seeping into your bones and grabbing hold of your emotions when you least expected it; friend or foe, the realisation that you fancy your boss should come with some warnings attached.

We all know of a friend, or friend of a friend who met their partner at work; the office romance has been in full bloom since the age of civilisation itself after all. But how can you navigate your new liaison tastefully and without being the object of everyone’s office gossip? And what can you do if the relationship suddenly sours and instead of cosying up with the person that has been the focus of your infatuation you dread coming into work for fear that you will have to come face to face with them in the boardroom or at the photocopier? Imagine being trapped in the four walls that brought you together?

Here are some rules to keep things in control:

  1. Decide whether it is appropriate to act upon your feelings: It’s all very well being head over heels with your co-worker, boss or member of your team but you need to stand back and make sure you know all the facts. Are they single? It may sound obvious but making a move may not be a good idea if you have misread the signals and they turn out to be happily attached or freshly single themselves and not looking for love. Similarly consider if this is a good time for your career – if you are in line for promotion or hoping to progress with your employer then think about whether it’s appropriate to spark up a romance that could end up being the reason your career has taken a sharp nose-dive.
  1. Don’t leave an e-trail: Exchanging flirtatious emails is tempting and easy. You may even be able to watch their response as they open their email from you but you are running the risk of your e-trail coming back to bite you, especially if there is some explicit content in there that you’d rather everyone didn’t see. It’s very hard not to communicate with your other half without email or texts but try to restrict it to a personal email account or phone. Don’t forget to consider whether it is a good idea to post a photo of you and your new beau on social media because if you are also friends with other co-workers they’ll soon see who your new partner is.
  1. Check your contract: Romance isn’t an offence but many businesses don’t take kindly to pillow talk and the exchange of confidential information so do check your terms and conditions particularly if you work for a bigger company. It might be that you will be required to change department or office location if your relationship is exposed.
  1. Decide when to go public: If this is the real-deal and, for many it is a genuinely happy and long-term partnership, then at some stage you will have to ‘fess up’ and come clean. If you’re as far down the line as thinking about taking your relationship to the next stage then you’ll either have done well to have kept it quiet for so long or you are very bad at realising that everyone knew anyway, so try to ascertain whether the disclosure of your big news is just that or if it’s yesterday’s chip wrapper and you can save yourself the bother of making a huge statement.
  1. Conduct yourself discretely: Ok so you are in love or you think you are, but even if you don’t care who knows, you should try to conduct your new relationship with some decorum. Getting drunk at the office party and making a public display of affection (PDA) with your new boyfriend or girlfriend won’t win you any points with senior management or your colleagues.
  1. Consider which of your colleagues is the best to confide in: We all need a friend to lean upon and to tell exactly what’s going on in our lives to, but choose your confidante carefully. There’s no good giving the full details to someone who no sooner than your back has turned is telling everyone else. If it’s early days really think about whether it is best to tell anyone in the office at all or whether it is better to see how things go and share your news with someone outside of your work.
  1. Don’t be tempted to use your new relationship to take up a new position of power: If your boss is the person that you are newly attached to then don’t be tempted to think this gives you the authority to stamp on everyone in the office because you suddenly feel elevated to a position of power. You are not and, this is a dangerous game to play especially if your boss decides they have had enough of you and, the people you treated badly because you have been on a mistaken power trip to the top, don’t want to scrape you off the floor now it’s over.
  1. Don’t bring your arguments to work: It’s inevitable that however rosy your relationship is, there will be a time when you fall out with your other half but the worst thing to do would be to make everyone at work know that you have had a full-blown row. That is completely unprofessional and you will become a laughing stock.

An office romance can be fun, well intentioned and positive especially if you end up meeting a long-term partner but remember it can be potentially damaging to you personally and professionally so take it slowly and protect yourself along the way from being hurt both emotionally and from committing career suicide.

Author: Annie Hayes