Jennette Ballas and Aliza Elbert

Dilemma: Over the past few months I have developed feelings for a girl that I work with. I want to ask her out, but I’m scared to pursue it because I am unsure of the consequences in dating a coworker. ” Matt F.

When closely working with a group of people in the same location from 9-to-5, it’s inevitable that relationships will blossom. It’s when these professional relationships develop into romantic interests that several ethical issues are brought to the table. Most professionals think that romantic relationships at work can cause potential conflicts and should be avoided if possible. Many companies forbid any form of intra-office dating. However, this level of restriction disregarding all forms of intra-office dating may invitely lead productive employees to walk out the door in order to carry on with their relationship. Other companies simply don’t have guidelines because it can be an uncomfortable issue. Nevertheless, there are companies who support romance as long as certain rules are followed. Southwest Airlines, for example, has 2,000 of it’s 35,000 employees married to each other. Even Bill Gates met his wife, Melinda, while she was a project manager at the company.

In case your company hasn’t already addressed guidelines, here are some basics to abide by in order to steer clear of romantic disasters at work:

Don’t “act like a couple” on company time. Excessive interaction between you and your partner may affect your productivity and make co-workers feel resentful.

Don’t discuss sexual experiences with co-workers. What happens with you and your partner should stay between only you and your partner. It is also not professional. Do not discuss troubles between you and your spouse or lover.

ƒ_›Avoid confrontational situations, such as break-ups, at work. No one wishes to hear other individuals’ dirty laundry.

Don’t advertise it. Co-workers will be a lot more tolerant of the relationship if they don’t feel awkward about it.

Don’t repeat risque stories or jokes.

Don’t indulge in PDAs (Public Displays of Affection)

Don’t date a client.

Don’t date an intern.

Don’t date a boss or subordinate.

When this happens the subordinate’s professional contributions will be diminished or dismissed. People might also start to perceive the boss as playing favorites.

Don’t even think about dating someone who is married. There is no need for explaination.

Nowadays, it’s becoming more common among large organizations for companies to ask office couples to sign a “love contract.”

This simply reaffirms that the relationships are voluntary, that the parties will inform human resources when the relationship ends and that both parties will behave ethically during and after the relationship. If a relationship goes bad, it is common that a company handle any confrontational situations as if the two individuals were never romantically involved.

The Bottom Line: We understand that you can’t always control your feelings, but we want to remind you that in the work place you have to be smart.


Aliza Elbert and Jennette Ballas are both marketing concentrations with a knack for changing the world-one ethical dilemma at a time. This article is written on behalf of SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) with a goal of teaching others about business ethics.

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