Q: The best part of having a workplace boyfriend?
A: Kissing on the sly in the utility closet at your office.
Q: The worst part about having an office boyfriend?
A: Your boss walking in on the two of you kissing on the sly in the utility closet at your office.
Kidding. The worst part is when you have to deal with Mr. Once-Wonderful after you dump him. Or—far worse—he kicks you to the curb. But let’s try to look at the bright side. I know everyone swears that office dating is a recipe for disaster, but according to recent studies cited in Fortune and GQ magazines, somewhere between 22 and 50 percent of office romances lead to marriage. So someone’s doing something right. Possibly in the cubicle right next to yours!
That said, for every office romance that culminates with an exchange of gold rings, there are many more that dissolve into tears, jeers and uncomfortable silences. My friend Desiree has had the worst luck in this department. “One time I was almost fired, and another time I was shot at—by one of my employees!”
To avoid dodging bullets—even just the metaphorical kind—here are a few things you should absolutely avoid doing when mining the office pool for love:
1. Don’t jump without looking: The first few weeks on any job can be disorienting. Everything is new, somewhat terrifying and still relatively exciting. This is when you should just be working hard while surveying your surroundings.
2. Don’t assume it’s a secret: While discretion is a key ingredient in the successful office affair, you should assume that everyone around you knows what you’re up to and with whom. Only the most oblivious coworkers won’t notice long lunches, smeared lipstick and furtive glances. However, the fact that they know doesn’t give you license to let loose with all the details.
3. Don’t expand the definition of “work spouse” to include nudity: The whole “office wife” concept has gotten a lot of press recently, and for the most part it’s innocent. She’s the one who reminds him that it’s his assistant’s birthday and points out the ketchup stain on his cuff. But when you start sleeping with your married coworker, things tend to get very messy. June was a 22-year-old waitress when she began what she considered a carefree fling with her married manager. “At first it was exciting and the whole secrecy thing added to the allure,” she told me. “But when his separation became official—I tell myself it would have happened anyway but who knows—and it all became a little too real, I had to quit.”
My own office romance lasted for six years, though we stopped working together about four years in. Obviously a creature of habit, our relationship came crashing to a halt after he sparked up another office romance—with the woman in the next cubicle!