I’m going to try to tackle this complicated issue by dealing with it from two perspectives:  the business owner and the employee.  If you’re the business owner and you haven’t established guidelines for your staff, do something immediately.  Find a knowledgeable human resources person to help create your company’s policy and put it in writing.  (You can most assuredly find resources and examples all over the internet.)

Once your policy has been finalized, have a meeting with your entire office personnel to read the guidelines out loud, so that each employee understands the the company’s rules regarding dating a co-worker.  Obtain each person’s signature on the written policy statement, affirming that he/she has read and understands the rules as well as the consequences.

If you choose to procrastinate about or entirely ignore this suggestion; if you think your company is too small or that your employees are too smart, think again.  And if you’re wondering what can go wrong, the list starts with lack of productivity and can end with a sexual harassment lawsuit.  You’re way too savvy to turn a blind eye to this.  Seriously, it’s vital.

Now, if you’re an employee who’s having or who has ever had an office romance, raise your hand.  Surveys report that 40% of people responding have dated a co-worker at one time or another and if it’s not you personally, chances are you know someone.  I mean, we’re all human.  If your company frowns upon dating co-workers, if you could possibly lose your job,  yet your libido is stronger than your office policy, you probably already understand what’s at risk.

Here are some tips to help you minimize the chances of getting caught:

  1.  DON’T leave the office together every day;
  2.  DON’T coincidentally show up at the same places, like the coffee pot, the water cooler, or the supply room;
  3.  DON’T take the same vacation days and/or sick days;
  4.  DON’T forget to stay productive;
  5.  DON’T drive to and from work together;
  6.  DON’T brag that you’ve suddenly become a Dodger fan or a Game of Thrones expert; and
  7.  DON’T make out in the parking lot.

I’m sure there are many more ways people have gotten caught violating their company’s office-dating policies.  If you “have a friend” who was fired for romance in the workplace, please comment and tell me the details.  Feel free to use fake names if you’d like it to be anonymous.

And finally, one other scenario to address:  What if you’re already sleeping with the boss?  Do the guidelines have an exception for a pre-existing condition?  This would be important to consider.  Especially if the boss is your spouse!