When I polled my friends on Facebook and Twitter for advice on dating a coworker, the overwhelming majority of the responses were simply, “Don’t.” It seems like everyone has a cautionary tale of a relationship in a workplace that went terribly, terribly wrong. Dating a coworker or boss or colleague can lead to unbearable awkwardness, a tarnished professional reputation, and even job-loss.

Like that’s going to stop anybody from doing it.

For as long as there have been workplaces, there have been people surreptitiously hooking up at them.

If you’re considering hooking up with someone you work with (even if “considering” = creepily staring at from across the room, completely unbeknownst to that person), I strongly advise you read these tips first. ‘Cause if you’re gonna do it, do it right.


Don’t Treat Work as Extended Quality Time

One of the great injustices of society is that most of us are expected to show up someplace 5 days a week and perform a task in exchange for money. It sucks, but until we all leave to form a Utopian Society on Mars, that’s the way it’s going to be. If you guys are at work, you’re supposed to be working.

“My ex-girlfriend would come to my office, and when I told her I was busy, she would get offended,” said one guy I talked to.

It’s important to keep your at-work relationship as professional as possible: unless you’re at lunch or in a group setting, try to limit the non-work related smalltalk to after hours.


Send Surreptitious Flirty Text Messages to Each Other

You’re crazy about each other, but aren’t allowed to openly express it when you’re at work together: clearly, this is the recipe for some insane sexual tension. But communicating via company email system is dicey, and any email you open on your computer screen can be too easily read by a co-worker. Send each other text messages instead — not too often, but enough to keep things interesting. (But don’t send angry texts — save the serious for after work.)


Don’t Go to Lunch Together Every Day

Ah, Lunch! The recess of of the adult world. Though it’s tempting to treat every lunch hour like a mid-day date with the co-worker you’re sleeping with, it’s a good idea to either set a schedule or limit your lunches together to one day a week. You really don’t want to become “that couple,” to the exclusion of your other co-workers, and you also don’t want to spend too much time together (and risk burnout!).


If One of You Manages The Other, Just Don’t Date, Period

Don’t date or sleep with your boss or subordinate. It puts both of you in an awkward (and fireable!) position, and things like “sexual harassment” get too easy to claim. If you really think this might be the love of your life, consider leaving your job before you start a relationship. If it’s just a fling you’re after, don’t do it.


Be Wary of Keeping It “Secret”

“A few months after I had a brief, and I thought clandestine fling with a co-worker, my boss casually said to me: ‘You weren’t really fooling anyone.’ I was mortified.” One girl told me.

You might think you’re keeping your relationship completely secret, but there’s no real way to ensure this. Keep this in mind if having an affair in your office could be a fireable offense.


Once It’s a Relationship, Go Public (to the necessary parties) ASAP

If you and a coworker actually start dating, and plan on being a couple for a while, stop keeping it a secret. Tell your bosses/HR Representatives/whoever needs to know, and assure them that you’ll continue to keep your work life as professional as possible. From then on, keep things as open, yet un-salacious, as possible.

“Even after people found out, we are never touchy or playful in the office,” a friend who is in a relationship with a co-worker told me. “But never secretive about it. If someone found out, we’d say, ‘oh, yeah.’ And we went to parties as a couple without announcing it.”


Have a Break-Up Contingency Plan

The biggest objection people seem to have to dating a co-worker is the inevitable awkwardness of going to work post-breakup.

“Basically there is NO WAY to focus on your job when the object of your affection (or diluted 3-week mistaken hookup) works in your office,” wrote one person.

As weird as it may seem, it’s super helpful to discuss what youlll do if and when things don’t work out. One couple I know agreed up front to avoid “The Fade Out” method of breaking up, since they had to see each other every day at work. They agreed that the second either one wasn’t feeling it anymore, they’d be upfront about it and the relationship would end, full stop: no unnecessary drama.


Make Out in the Elevator

Secretly making out in the elevator at work and then stopping the second you get to your floor is a fantasy everyone has, and you have the opportunity to make it happen. Take advantage, on behalf of the rest of us. [Ed note: But be wary of security cameras!]


Your Career Comes First

If you’re wondering what behaviors are and aren’t OK when in terms of hooking-up with a coworker, remember that your career has to come first. Anything that might make you look unprofessional should be avoided at all costs, so don’t engage in PDA, don’t let your relationship become the center of office gossip, etc., etc. When you get to the point where you feel your relationship might take precedence over your career, then you can re-evaluate things. (But it’s still probably best to avoid PDA?)


Maybe Just Go For It.

You know it’s smarter to not do it. You know what you’re risking. But if you’re still tempted to hook-up with a cute coworker, might as well go for it: you only live once.

As one person wrote on Facebook:

“My wife and I met at work. 22 years ago. Seems to be working out.”


Have you ever dated a coworker?

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