I guess I’ve been lucky in my romantic dealings with coworkers; one turned into a long-term relationship that outlasted the job and the other two were just pleasant dalliances that fizzled out naturally. Which is probably why I’ve always rolled my eyes when I hear so-called experts yammer on about how you should avoid dating people you work with at all costs. I mean, sure, stay away from the boss or anyone who reports to you, but if you’re both on equal footing, who cares?Michelle Goodman, author of My So-Called Freelance Life (Seal Press), specializes in reporting on the work beat and agrees that ruling out a perfectly fine catch just because he resides in the same cube farm is kind of silly. “The office is the best dating pool around!” she tells me via e-chat. “Where else can you go and quickly suss out who’s married with kids (that photo on the desk is a telltale sign) or single and fancy-free (their pre-meeting chitchat about their New Orleans weekend with the guys is often a dead giveaway)?!”
Goodman also pointed me towards a recent CareerBuilder survey that reported 40 percent of the 8,000 people surveyed had dated at work. And 31 percent of those had gone on to marry their cubicle cutie! But what of the other 9 percent? Well, that’s where those warnings about pooping where you eat spring from.
Alana*, a 32-year-old DC-based publicist, found out just how ugly interoffice romance can get when she was dumped by the dashing divorced dad who conveniently sits at the desk directly across from hers. “Having to see him every day is really tough,” she tells me. “I also hear him talking to his new girlfriend on the phone and that’s really painful.” Not to mention cruel and unusual.
Whereas I would be planting tacks on his chair, sending myself fancy chocolates, and begging my hot guy friends to stop by and pretend to be madly in love with me, Alana is wisely taking the high road. “I decided to not let him see how hurt I am and to just hold my head up and smile every day. This strategy has a double benefit because it actually makes me feel better than if I was running off to the ladies’ room to cry all the time.”
An added bonus: “That I am back to being cheerful seems to really bother him, which I like,” she laughs. “I also put more care into my appearance, because it makes me feel better to have that little extra measure of self-confidence. He actually looks worse, which I definitely am noticing.” OK, definitely more satisfying than a tack in his ass.
Goodman agrees that a stiff upper lip is the way to go. “Avoid engaging in those ‘Can we talk?’ or ‘I need closure’ emails, IMs, calls, and cups of coffee while you’re at work,” she advises. “You’ll only wind up pissed off, depressed, or sobbing into your keyboard.”
But what if he’s persistent, as Alana’s ex has been—sending her emails about nothing and wanting to get together for coffee. “If your SO insists on talking at work, blow them off,” she says. If all else fails, Goodman says, “Try to come up with a convincing reason for your boss to move your workstation—it’s too loud, too far from people you collaborate with, etc. If that doesn’t work, invest in a set of earphones so you don’t have to hear the cad drone on all day, and put up curtains around your cubicle so you don’t have to look at his lying mug.”
Then again, you could always try that tack on his chair.