In a well-argued, well-researched piece on NYMag.com, Ann Friedman makes her case for never mixing work and dating. Despite it being more convenient for 20-something women who are trying to make “serious strides in [their careers] before [they have] to make tough decisions about marriage and kids” to find potential suitors in the office, Friedman thinks that having a “co-worker-boyfriend hybrid” remains a bad idea. For her, it has to do with fostering career confidence:
“There’s such a thing as having your ambitions too in sync with those of your partner. As someone who spent all of her early twenties dating fellow journalists, I would never advise a young woman to follow my example. I didn’t suffer any professional disasters, but I did have to deal with a lot of personal anxieties I might not have experienced otherwise…I don’t think it’s a total coincidence that I’ve been most professionally successful in the years since I instituted my ‘no journo’ dating rule. Once I disentangled my feelings about my relationships from my feelings about my own work and career, I was more confident and could make clearer choices in both areas of my life.”
I respect the point she makes, but I tend to think of the choice to date a co-worker as one made on a case-by-case basis depending on circumstances, career field (who would celebs date if they didn’t date each other?) and personal readiness, not by a moral imperative. Ah, I’m such a relativist when it comes to love.
When I was in college I worked at a nightclub — partially because I needed the cash and partially because I was dating a guy who also worked there. This was an awful idea on so many levels. Well, because he was awful and I was 19 and didn’t know any better. He would bring other girls into the club and I would watch them hanging out or, worse, making out and have to batten down my rage for the rest of my shift. This was great for writing angry poetry on the back of band fliers, horrible for my mental state.
Still, I wouldn’t use this as an example that dating a co-worker is wrong. Just, in this instance it was. I haven’t dated a co-worker since then (only for lack of opportunity), but I’ve dated people I’ve met through work. Like Friedman, I never suffered any personal disasters because of it, just a few moments of personal anxiety that I recovered from. But what is dating if not a series of personal anxieties? It doesn’t matter if you’re dating someone in your field.
When I was in my late 20′s, I worked in an office where two people fell in love and ended up getting married and very recently, having a baby. For them, dating each other regardless of their co-worker status was the right thing to do.
My take is that it’s limiting to have a strict “no dating in the workplace” policy because, well, what if? It’s better, instead, to look at the pros and cons of dating a co-worker so you can be prepared if you decided to go there. Here are a few to consider:
1.The person you’re dating works in the same building. You can IM him and tell him to meet you in the hallway for a secret, 4 o’clock kiss or have dinner in the break room when you have to work late.
2. He’ll understand the minutiae of your day. You can bitch to him about what an ass your boss is and how much that proposal due next week is stressing you out and he’ll totally get it. On a tight deadline, you have an ally to collaborate with.
3. You’ll have to keep things on the down low. Depending on your company’s policy’s, you might have to keep your romantic involvement a secret, which, let’s be honest, can be really HOT.
4. You already know him. You don’t have to wonder whether he’s a womanizer (he’s come alone to the last five company Christmas parties) or a pathological liar because you know where it works. You also don’t have to wonder if he keeps Pop Tarts in his desk or likes to take his shoes off when he’s in deep thought.
5. One of you might get a promotion. Best case scenario: it’s you and he’s happy for you and you can celebrate your successes together and money and status don’t become an issue.
1. The person you’re dating works in the same building. If you get into a spat or worse, break up, you’ll have to see him every day — eating his stupid Pop Tarts, working with his shoes off, dating someone new — and it’s gonna be bitch.
2. He’ll understand the minutiae of your day. Get ready for an awful lot of gossiping about weird co-workers and venting about clients on the weekends.
3. You’ll have to keep things on the down low. It will suck to have to treat him like a colleague in staff meetings when all you want to do is jump on him and lick his face.
4. You already know him. The guy eats Pop Tarts for breakfast every day and his socks smell. Hopefully, you’ll still get butterflies despite this.
5. One of you might get a promotion. Things might get weird if he becomes your boss or you become his. There’s a good chance that this will send one of you off into the job market, searching for a new place of employment … and a new love interest.
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