A tale as old as time and as true as it can be. Barely even friends, then somebody sends an Outlook calendar invitation to lunch at Pret A Manger.
We love workplace romances. They give us countless sit-com storylines. There you are, flirting by the water cooler and sharing Cats That Look Like Hitler.
For many, a colleague can become a lifelong, committed partner. Let’s put the wedding dress templates back in the drawer for now. Here at G4RL we like to keep things realistic. You could say it’s kinda our whole deal.
So you’re getting hot under the collar for Stephen from Finance. Maybe you’ll end up with a great story for the grandchildren involving a photocopier, nudity and the phrase “massive HR violation”. Maybe you’ll end up with a broken heart and a stiffly worded resignation letter.
A workplace crush is the most normal of normal things. We all spend an alarming amount of time at the workhouse. It’s natural to look closely at your colleagues and assess them as potential partners. There’s nothing wrong with lusting after your co-worker, as long as you handle it professionally with poise and grace. Let this smooth operator guide you through the HR minefield of office romance.
Don’t bosh your boss
It’s time for Power Structures 101. If somebody holds power over you, your relationship dynamic is inescapably unbalanced. If your boss chooses to have sex with you, they are abusing their power. Even if the sex is entirely consensual. Even if you pursued them. Even if it’s a secret hidden from your other colleagues.
Your boss sits above you in the pyramid of power hierarchies. They review your progress and are responsible for your professional development. They can choose to promote you or to fire you. Even if nothing messy results from your dalliance, their potential power to affect your employment status makes it a total no-go.
It’s the ultimate sexual fantasy because it’s a taboo. I hate to ruin the no-pants party, but it must remain just a fantasy. Many of us have “got away with it” without facing consequences. However, it’s the duty of those in power to use their authority responsibly, not shag their secretaries.
Are they hot underneath their uniform?
Most of life is driven by context. If I squeal “Adolf, you’re such a good boy” at my cat, it’s a precious moment between female and feline. If I utter those words while visiting the Holocaust Museum, I would rightly expect to be carried away by the relevant authorities.
Work crushes can feel all-consuming. Their electrifying chemistry lifts the monotony of a Wednesday afternoon. You need to be clear whether you fancy this person for who they are, rather than what they represent. It’s easy to fall for someone because of the way they pour a pint at the bar. A command of moderately priced ales does not make for the perfect partner.
You need to strip away the work context to test your feelings. If you’re keen to pursue the romance, see if you like them for who they are outside of the office. Do you really like them, or do you like them because they’re the only man over 5’11 in the immediate vicinity? One of the central principles of G4RL applies here: you need to look at people for who they really are, not project a fantasy of what you wish they could be.
Take it easy, princess.
As with all romances, it’s best not to dive in head first without pausing to take a breath. With a workplace relationship, the need for caution is multiplied. If it works out with Stephen from Finance, that’s wicked. But if it all falls apart, you’re still going to have to see him every day. By taking things slowly, you increase your chances of remaining friends in the aftermath of any breakup.
There are practical considerations to bear in mind. These are mundane but consequential issues you need to work through together as a new couple. Are you going to be open about your relationship at work? Are you going to acknowledge each other in the office? Are you going to have lunch together daily? Get to know each other slowly and gently before you commit to a workplace relationship.
Then work through the administration together as a partnership. If you begin your relationship on an equal footing with respect for each other’s professionalism, your love will grow out of mutual understanding and shared values. That’s a recipe for success stronger than any HR Employee Relations Policy.
Follow G4RL on Instagram for all the latest updates. Thank you to Tiny Victories for providing the two original illustrations for this week’s post. I also collaborated with @tinyvictorieszine to co-create a zine about the Gentleboy who respects you as a woman, but only if you conform to his very rigid idea of womanhood….
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