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Dating a Coworker in a Different Department

by Emma Wells

You go out to lunch with people from work or have the occasional happy hour drink with them, and still, you wonder if you should cross that line and date within the office. Forty percent of people who took a survey on CareerBuilder.com said they had dated someone from work at least once. It’s not uncommon to start relationships at work, but it’s also good to know what you’re getting into.

Compartmentalizing Departments

The good thing about dating a coworker in a different department is that even though you work for the same company, you probably have different immediate managers and a different daily itinerary. You’re not likely to need to butt heads on a project proposal or take sides in intra-department disputes. Therefore, this is the best of both worlds: you met someone who shares your interests, but you don’t have to mix the boardroom and the bedroom too much. In fact, even though you may carpool to work and provide each other with emotional support on work-related issues, try not to spend every waking moment together. A little space is a good thing.

Telling Your Boss

Tell your boss that you’re dating, recommends Dr. Lois Frankel, author of “Stop Sabotaging Your Career.” Find out ahead of time what the rules are about workplace romance. Since your sweetie works in another department, it shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s good to take a professional moment to let your bosses know your relationship won’t interfere with your work. They’ll appreciate the open communication.

Keeping It on the DL

Don't advertise your blossoming romance to your coworkers, especially if it just started. Nobody wants to be famous in the office for having week-long flings -- and you probably don't want all of your coworkers to know about your personal life, anyway. Gossip between coworkers can turn "vicious," warns career and workplace expert Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter. Keep the intra-office friction to a minimum by focusing on work instead of love while you’re there. Strike a balance between ignoring your new significant other completely -- a sure sign that something strange is going on -- and dropping his name all the time -- a sure sign that you’re romantically interested in him. Instead, play it cool. If the relationship gets serious, you can just be honest about it, without revealing more than necessary. People can’t talk behind your back if you’re up front about what’s going on.

Keeping Priorities Straight

While dating someone from a different department minimizes the risk of competing for promotions and similar rewards, you and your new-found love could still run into issues that create friction between your love life and work. Barrett-Poindexter urges readers to think about what they would do if they received a promotion that required relocation, or if the partner needed to relocate for work. Consider also whether you would need to compete with your partner on any job-related goals, and whether or not you're comfortable with that. Considering scenarios like this before you dive into a serious commitment with a coworker will help you to recognize what your priorities are, and act accordingly.

About the Author

Emma Wells has been writing professionally since 2004. She is also a writing instructor, editor and former elementary school teacher. She has a Master's degree in writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English and anthropology. Her creative work has been published in several small literary magazines.

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