Dating People From Work — Yay or Nay?

Is it ok to date someone from the office, and what to do with your ex’s stuff.

Q: I just got a great new job that I'm super-psyched about. And it comes with a bonus – not one but two hot guys that I'll be working with! One I'll be working a lot with on upcoming projects and the other one works in a different department but I'll be collaborating with him frequently. It's a young office and it seems to have a pretty social vibe, but I'm already wondering whether it's cool if I date either (or both) of these guys. One has already expressed interest in me. He's so yummy! I don't want to sabotage my job but it feels like the Dark Ages since I've been seriously interested in someone (and had them approach me so forwardly). Is this a good idea, dating someone in the office? – Working Girl

It's always best to keep the red teddies out of the office.

A: Don’t start stashing condoms in your cube yet, sister, lest you become known as the wrong kind of working girl.

Some companies are cool with inter-office dating, others aren’t and still others have “don’t ask, don’t tell” and other shades-of-gray policies in place. But unless your new gig is working as a fluffer, this is an issue that the HR department isn’t likely to be talking about in training. Dating someone at work isn’t something you should bring up in the break room during your first few weeks on the job, either. You need to stop fantasizing about your co-workers and start focusing on your job. In the process, you’ll be picking up all sorts of clues about office culture; i.e., whether dating co-workers is kosher or not.

But even if it is – and this is not a hall pass to start planning a three-way – you must proceed with caution. Mixing love and work comes with its own set of challenges. What will happen if one of you gets promoted/demoted? What about navigating the fallout from a breakup? And keep in mind that while some places might officially ok interoffice dating, there’s often still an air of scrutiny swirling around it. Bottom line: Is the prospective relationship (or date or hook-up) something for which you’re willing to sacrifice your job, and possibly career?   

Lecture over. Now, off to work with you.

Q: I’m just wondering what the frak you’re supposed to do with pictures of you and the ex. While I’d like to say they don’t mean anything to me and simply shred them, it’s almost two decades of my life so I guess I’ll just shove them in a box until I can deal with them.

I’m slowly going through other things and am getting rid of as much as possible, but even without dealing with picture and notes, it’s SO hard. I’m even having to get rid of certain DVDs as they bring up too many memories. Well, I put a few back on the shelves when I remembered that I enjoy them. But the ones I doubt I would’ve bought without the ex are going.

Breaking up really is a bereavement. In many ways, I think it’s worse than losing a spouse through death because dying isn’t a betrayal or a negation of your life together. Anyway, it’d be good to know your advice and also find out how your readers have dealt with issues like this. -- Star

A: Sorry to hear about your breakup. But, from the coherence of your letter, it sounds like you’re past the can’t-function-can’t-breathe-I’ll-never-love-again stage of the process, which is a promising sign of recovery.

You’ve got the right course of action for the pics: Stash ‘em, don’t trash ‘em. When the wounds* are still fresh, the temptation is strong to destroy all reminders of your relationship to prove to yourself that you’re over it, just like you said. Don’t do it. Put the pics (and other personal stuff like notes) in a box and stash in a hard-to-reach place until enough time has passed that you can look at them as a reminder of how far you’ve come. If you need to, give them to a friend.

Re: the DVDs – just sell or give away those suckers. (Or save a couple of the ex’s most ridiculous faves for a laugh down the road about what bad taste he/she had.) 

The only other things I’ll add are my usual break-up recovery tips: 1) Exercise (even just a walk around the block) gets the endorphins flowing and you off the couch, into shape and away from the tub of ice cream. 2) When your friends start rolling their eyes at the mention of your ex’s name, it’s time to change the subject. Talking about your breakup is one thing; obsessing over it only keeps you from moving forward. 3) Along with yourself, nurturing another living creature – whether it’s your frail Aunt Bess or a hermit crab – has incredible healing power. Readers, you heard Star – what are your break-up salves?

*I did catch your mentions of “betrayal” and “negation of your life together.” If those happen to include cheating or abuse, then there’s nothing wrong with gathering your best friends for a bonfire of pics, notes, DVDs and any other assorted excretions from this schmuck.


  1. to workin girl…

    why not just quit your job now you corral slut.

    i’m the owner of the company and i bring a gal in who starts banging my staff. i see liability here coming out of my ears. think about everything you do when working for someone as if it were your own business and what you would see as acceptable risk.

    either that or you better be one phenomenal business development engine and if that is the case, bang away.

    Comment by irck — August 12, 2010 @ 2:24 pm

  2. to working girl…

    keep blane’s advise in mind, but I say go for it! It’s silly to think romance can’t happen at work – I mean, we spend a good majority of our time at work – the odds are good that you’ll be interested in someone. If you’re both responsible enough, there are clever ways around it so long as you don’t have a boss-subordinate relationship. I really hope the company has a large employee base… it would be easier to keep things on the DL that way.

    @Star – keep up the good work on your recovery. Stash your memories because i’m sure some of them are worth remembering one day – maybe.

    Comment by Life is Short — August 12, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

  3. Umm, Irck, what in the world is a “corral slut”? Somebody who keeps the corporate cowboys satisfied? :)

    Comment by Blane — August 13, 2010 @ 1:32 pm

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