Avoid Romantic Entanglements at Work

You spend much of your time at your workplace. It's natural that friendships and romantic entanglements should come up from time-to-time. However, understandably, you prefer to keep your private life separate from your work life, avoiding the complications of combining work and romance. To do so, try to maintain strict professionalism in your work relationships and take steps to avoid other issues. If a problem does arise with a coworker, you'll need to make sure that person understands your boundaries.


Setting Boundaries

  1. Determine your boundaries. You've already decided that you don't want to get into a romantic relationship at work. Now, you need to figure out how to actually implement that in specific terms to set boundaries for your and your co-workers.[1]
    • For example, maybe one of your boundaries is to never accept an invitation for socializing outside of work from a member of the sex you're interested in. Once you've established that, you can make it a hard and fast rule. Alternatively, maybe your boundary is to never be alone with a person you feel attracted to.
    • Discuss boundaries with your partner, if you have one. Sometimes, your boundaries can be determined in part by what your partner is comfortable.
  2. Stick to your boundaries. Establishing what your boundaries are is only the first step. Next, you need to make sure you follow through with those boundaries. Part of following through is making a boundary clear when it comes up, so people don't get upset or hurt.[2]
    • For instance, if someone invites you out for a drink and you've decided that's one of your boundaries, say, "I appreciate the invitation, but to keep my work relationships professional, I don't go out alone with colleagues of the opposite sex."
    • On the other hand, if it's you just don't want to be alone, invite other coworkers along when someone you're attracted to invites you.
  3. Discuss boundaries with the person you're attracted to. Sometimes, you just need to acknowledge the elephant in the room. If you spend a good deal of time with one person at work because of traveling and schedules, you may just need to acknowledge that attraction with each other and establish boundaries you're both comfortable with.[3]
    • For instance, you could say, "I think we've both noticed we have a certain chemistry between us. I hope it's not just one-sided. However, I think we need to lay some ground rules. For example, I have no problem with some flirting, but I wouldn't consider having an affair because I think it would get too complicated. What are your thoughts?"
  4. Try not to be alone with coworkers you're attracted to. Any time you're alone for extended periods with a co-worker who you find attractive, there's the possibility of romantic entanglements. If you have another person around, when possible, that cuts out the possibility of romance to a large degree. Of course, you may not be able to limit this type of interaction, but if you can, that may cut down on your romantic feelings.[4]
  5. Remind yourself of the issues with romances. Workplace romances can be tricky. Anytime you date someone at the office, you're opening up the potential for drama and post-breakup emotional fallout. Consider what would happen if a relationship or fling went south.[5]
  6. Ask to switch as needed. If you need to, bring a potentially problematic situation up with your boss. If you think something could develop between you and a coworker, you could ask to switch teams or work with other people, if possible.[4]
    • You could say, "Is it possible for me to work less with John? I just feel like there's a bit too much chemistry there, and I don't feel comfortable working on his team."

Maintaining Professionalism

  1. Treat everyone the same. At work, it's your job to get along with everyone. That doesn't mean you have to like everyone, but you should be able to have pleasant conversations with everyone in the office. If you're nice to everyone (and treat everyone equally), you're less likely to encourage individual romances.[6]
    • In fact, if you find yourself attracted to someone, the best approach to take is just to treat them with the same respect you treat everyone else.
  2. Socialize after work with other people. You spend a good deal of time with your colleagues, so it's natural that feelings may develop at times. However, one way to tamp down those feelings is to spend after hours with other friends when you can, as that can help you realize that there other people in the world. You don't have to exclude your work friends, but having other friends outside of work will give you some perspective.[7]
  3. Skip the flirting. You don't have to be absolutely cold to people in the office. However, you also don't have to engage in flirting, where you giggle, touch a person's arm, or lean in when you talk to them, especially if you feel attracted to them. Instead, keep your conversations and interactions professional. In fact, some companies consider outright flirting a fireable offense.[8]

Dealing with Unwanted Advances

  1. Drop a few hints. If someone at work is giving you unwanted attention, you can try to drop a few hints to get them to back down. For instance, if they are always asking you to have drinks or go out for dinner, you can always have another commitment. If they come around to your desk too often, you can say you have too much work to chat. Try to subtly place the emphasis back on work.[9]
    • For instance, if the person comes up to your desk and lingers, you could say, "I'm sorry. I'm really busy today, and I don't have time to chat."
  2. Be direct. If you've given someone hints that you aren't interested and they haven't taken them, it's time to be direct. Tell them that you are not interested in having a romantic relationship at work, and that you'd like to keep your relationship professional. Also, discuss any behaviors you find inappropriate.[9]
    • For instance, you could say, "I don't know for sure if this is where you're going, but I'd really like to keep my relationships at work strictly professional. When you ask me out for drinks, I get the feeling you are interested in something more. It has nothing to do with you, but I never pursue romantic relationships at work."
  3. Read up on your company's sexual harassment policy. If you're getting unwanted attention, it's important to know where your company stands on the issue. Read your company's policy before bringing the issue to a manager, as you'll be able to couch the issue in terms that the company uses.[10]
  4. Bring the issue to your boss. If the unwanted attention continues, it's important that your boss or human resources knows, depending on the company. Your company's sexual harassment policy should tell you who to approach. Bring up the problem you're having, and ask them what they can do to help you.
    • For example, you could say, "I've made it clear to John that I'm not interested in him romantically, yet he keeps asking me out. I think that falls under sexual harassment after reading the company's policy. Can you help me deal with this issue?"

Sources and Citations