David Letterman was blackmailed over an affair with a staff member. John Edwards’ relationship with a campaign videographer was career limiting to him and publicly humiliating to his wife. Romance at work can be costly.
“Even single, consenting adults need to be careful," says business-etiquette expert Barbara Pachter. "If you don’t behave properly, an office romance can cause conflict and have a negative impact on your career.”
Pachter is author of the book NewRules@Work: 79 Etiquette Tips, Tools, and Techniques to Get Ahead and Stay Ahead (Prentice Hall Press).
She offers five guidelines to help you and your significant other to share a copier by day and a bedroom by night without hurting your professional image:
1. Don't broadcast your relationship on any social-media sites. Keep the relationship private. Your coworkers don't need to know the intimate details of your romance. No posting information or photos about your latest love interest on Facebook or tweeting about it. You never know who will see them.
2. No giant billboards in Times Square! If the relationship fails, be professional and adult about it. A problematic example would be the recent billboard in New York that announced the affair of a top corporate executive. Even if you have been jilted and the relationship ends badly, you can't vent your negative feelings in public. One of the risks of office relationships is that they sometimes don’t work out, and then you have to continue to see or work with the person involved.
3. No physical contact in the office. No romantic displays. No secret kissing, caressing, hand-holding or sex in the office. This also includes behavior at office parties.
4. Don’t e-mail X-rated valentines. E-mail isn't private. Don't mail an unsigned valentine to a co-worker. Being a secret admirer isn't a corporate concept.
5. Your boss shouldn’t be your girlfriend or boyfriend. Relationships are tricky enough without your boss or subordinate being your date. If you are dating your boss, get your reporting relationship changed.