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Office romances can be tricky

The experts can warn you until they're blue in the face: Beware of office romances. But there that special someone is: so cute, such chemistry, so nice — this could be the love of your life, or at least the romance of your week. You don't want to just say no, but are you at grave risk of one day getting fired, sued or both? No guarantees, but here are five ways to maximize your chances of enjoying a workplace romance and surviving to tell the tale.

Be honest with your prospective partner

If you're only looking for a quick fling, don't make long-term-relationship noises in your efforts to seduce. That candor is always important, but especially so in the workplace. If you imply a possible wedding-bell future and then after a hot date or two suddenly cool off, let alone start flirting with another office mate, you're asking for big-time reprisals. Remember the old saying, "Hell hath no fury like a woman (or man) scorned"?

Think twice before starting a relationship with your boss

In some workplaces, this is strictly verboten, but even if it is permissible, beware. If later on, you dump your boss, he may retaliate. For example, "I need you to do this extra work." "Sorry, I can't let you take an extra 15 minutes for lunch." "No, I won't give you any extra resources." The opportunities for torturing you are endless.

In fairness, sometimes a relationship with a boss can yield special privileges, like a corner office. Even if the boss decides to end the relationship, he may give you a promotion or another perk to reduce the risk that you'll file a grievance. One study found that 64 percent of women who had a romantic relationship with their boss reported that, as a result, their work situation improved.

Think 10 times before starting a relationship with your direct report

That's risky even if the relationship is working well. For example, your honey begs you for a plum assignment that, from a business perspective, you believe should go to someone else. But you feel forced to say yes to your special friend. And if you break off the relationship, you're really in danger: Your former beloved could claim you abused your power. You could end up losing your job and gaining a subpoena.

Keep it quiet

I know, I know. When you're in love, it's tempting to tell everyone in the office. That's a mistake. From then on, the two of you will be under the microscope. It's even dangerous if the two of you are peers. For example, if you're seen helping your sweetie out with work, someone else who also needs your help may go to the boss and complain you're playing favorites.

"But," you protest, "the chemistry between us is so obvious that everyone already knows we're having a relationship." Chances are, many co-workers don't know. They're wrapped up in themselves; they're not monitoring the vibes between every twosome walking by. Other co-workers may suspect but can't be sure. If you confirm your relationship to just one person, chances are the whole office will know within 24 hours. And it takes just one disgruntled co-worker to make your life miserable. Until it's time to send the wedding invitations, keep the relationship to yourselves.

Have fun

Actually, the office is a pretty darn good place to meet a romantic partner. Unlike in a bar, where you pick mainly on impulse and an alcohol-impaired chat, at work you get to see more of what a person is really like. So you're more likely to find your valentine at the office water cooler than a bar stool.

Just follow these five rules to reduce your risk and then focus on having a great time. Being in love is wonderful — take it from me. I had an office romance and lived to tell the tale. In fact, I married her.

This article first appeared on Monster, the leading online global network for careers. To see other career-related articles, visit career-advice.monster.com.

Office romances can be tricky 02/12/11 [Last modified: Saturday, February 12, 2011 3:31am]
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