As I've written in the past, I met my husband at work, and we've been married for more than 20 years, which just goes to prove that you can find love and happiness in the workplace. But if we're going to be truthful, love in the workplace can really go wrong, too.
Remember: Just because Valentine's Day is around the corner and that person sitting across the room is starting to look pretty darn good right now doesn't mean you should jump into anything you're going to regret. I've interviewed lots of experts about workplace dating, and here are some ideas about Cupid in cubicle-land:
1. Know what you want from the relationship. By observing your romantic interest at work, you can decide whether this person is truly someone special -- someone you will be willing to have a lasting relationship with. Office romances are not easy, and there will be problems along the way. Make sure this relationship is worth the extra effort.
2. Start out as friends. Not only will there be the chance to get to know each other professionally, socially and personally through work, but shared experiences and mutual respect will add to the foundation. And the more solid the friendship foundation, the better chances are for a long-term, loving relationship.
3. Date because you like each other -- not for power. Never trade sex for influence, money or any work-related advantage. Don’t date because you’re afraid to say no. That’s not romance, it’s sexual harassment.
4. Check out the corporate climate. Determine your company’s written and unwritten rules on relationships, and possible reactions from co-workers. Keep a close eye on the office busybody or political cutthroat who would love to cause trouble.
5. Evaluate the pros and cons for your career. If your career could be hurt by the personal relationship, would you consider it worth it? If the romance fizzles, will you feel you have won or lost? Are there other career paths in your company if you find you need to make a change because of your personal life?
6. Create a joint partnership. Look at the critical issues you both will face, and make a joint decision regarding priorities and plans for dealing with the future. When -- or if -- you go public with your relationship should be discussed, and determine whether work responsibilities need to be realigned and whose career may need protection.
7. Establish clear “exit routes” in the beginning. Not every work relationship ends in bliss, so it’s a good idea to discuss how you’ll end it gracefully if it doesn’t work out. Talk about possible career fallouts, and look for a trusted mediator to be brought in if needed. Is there an option of transfer or leave time if required?
If the relationship does end, give yourself time to grieve, or cool off. Don’t plot revenge at your desk or sob in the restroom. Talk about your feelings with friends -- after work.