Romantic relationships at work

We wouldn’t always imagine something like this can happen, but romantic relationships at work can become the biggest job performance challenge we may come across. 

We all know the message, but we don’t always abide by it: it isn’t advisable to establish personal or romantic relationships at work.

However, although the theory indicates the convenience of avoiding this type of situation, the complexity of human relationships doesn’t always fit in with popular opinions. 

So, do I have to forget the idea of being with someone I like at my job just because we work together? If we are (or were) a couple, can we not work together? None of that: emotional relationships find their way into the work environment as a result of working together and sometimes, it is the emotional relationships themselves that generate a professional relationship

Sometimes, we end up getting together (for a while or for a long time) with someone we work with, and others, we start working with someone who we once had a fling with, a serious relationship, or with who we currently have a relationship with. To some extent, it is impossible to 100% resist this happening. Often, it’s simply the case that romantic relationships at work are bound to happen.

romantic relationships at work

What we can do is reflect and be cautious when making certain choices, deciding how good or bad it is to push certain relationships in certain directions, especially when those relationships end. Remember: you will have to see them the next day, and the next, and the next.  

Pros and cons of romantic relationships at work

When fulfilling, emotional and romantic relationships at work are enormously stimulating for those in them. This can be in favor or against their performance at work, especially when the relationship is with another team member. 

The positive aspect of having romantic relationships at work (or at least in some) is that by being happier, we have a better and more optimistic attitude. We tend to be more satisfied with what is happening and with what is proposed to us, it can increase our level of kindness and generosity and also motivation, which can improve our productivity at work. In colloquial terms, everything seems “to be better” if we are at an emotional peak of a relationship we are particularly excited about. 

The negative part is that our level of emotion can be very high and so our ability to concentrate declines, we get distracted easily. If we have the person we like in front of us at all times, or we know is in the room next to us, distraction tends not to diminish. 

If the relationship goes ahead, the level of euphoria will decrease progressively and everything will end up becoming more or less normal. However, when we have a fling with someone from work, it can sometimes make us feel uncomfortable because the relationship with that person can change drastically (we don’t see them the way we used to, or at least for some time) we need to find a new way of interacting with each other. Additionally, we can also go through rejection or a break-up, making it harder to share office space with that person. 

In these cases, the situation can become extremely unpleasant: everyone knows you have been together and everyone knows you have broken up, everyone knows you are having a hard time over someone everyone knows. It is someone who is right in front of you and someone who has made you feel terrible, a permanent reminder, making it difficult to move on and of course, your attitude towards work will not be the same. 

How to handle romantic relationships at work

If you are going to share an office with someone you have a romantic relationship with, we have 4 tips to help you prevent any possible conflicts between you and the rest of your team.

1. Separate your personal life from your professional life

Trust, emotions, and certain tendencies that can arise in couples can make it difficult to separate your personal life from your professional life. However, it has to be done and can be learned through practice. 

When we are outside the office, we can act spontaneously as any other couple would. However, when we are at work, we have to work: no one cares if we are in love and need to prove it or if we have fallen out and can’t avoid using what has happened in the relationship to get revenge through work. 

A relatively simple trick that can help us separate roles and position ourselves in the workplace is to call each other by our first names when we are at work, both to talk to each other in front of other people and to mention ourselves when we are talking to other people, rather than using more informal and private nicknames. 

At first, this can seem a bit artificial, especially if we are not used to it. However, in the long term, it’s much more useful to separate both spheres and not make other people feel uncomfortable, as there is no need to share certain levels of intimacy with them. 

It is also important to have self-control over topics of conversation so that private matters stay out of the workplace environment and work-related matters don’t interfere with our private moments. Sometimes it is hard to separate both. Therefore, it is not necessary to be rigid: It is simply a matter of trying to keep each topic in the appropriate area whenever possible so as to avoid communication problems for everyone. 

2. Avoid excessive or unreasonable demands

Apart from mixing spheres inappropriately, we can wrongly measure our interactions and demands with the person with whom we have a romantic relationship or a simple affair. 

Sometimes, so that it doesn’t appear to others that we are favoring that person, we tend to harden our approach and demand more than what they are entitled to or can give, turning the natural relationship of hierarchy into an abusive relationship, both in the work and personal sphere. 

Other times, however, we do the opposite: we develop a pattern of being more pleasing than we should be, which ends up being interpreted by others as a relationship of favoritism. 

Both situations are toxic for both people involved and the rest of their team. This is why they should be avoided. 

3. Try to take part in different projects or departments

Sometimes the company which we work for with our partners (or the person who has recently become our partner) is so small that it is inevitable to be involved in the same tasks.

However, it is advisable to avoid being part of the same team and to try to be involved in different projects under different supervisors. This can prevent interference between what is personal and professional when it comes to managing relationships at work. 

This way, we also avoid getting saturated with each other, and it facilitates others to also interact with us spontaneously without having to worry about bothering the manager’s boyfriend or the peer’s partner. 

4. Keep the psychological and legal risks in mind

When personal matters get mixed up with our professional life, things can get complicated. If the personal affections we are talking about have an erotic, seductive, or couple component, then it’s not just danger, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. 

It is completely normal to be attracted to someone, and if the occasion arises and we feel up to it, we try to seduce them to see where the relationship can go. Flirting, having an affair, starting a relationship with a colleague, or at least exploring that possibility is not a crime. 

However, when this occurs in a professional environment, we should be careful, so the natural process of seduction or getting together doesn’t get in the way of the professional relationship or the relationship with the rest of the team. 

If the people involved belong to different hierarchical levels, it is essential to treat this aspect with special care. This means that if the one who takes the initiative or shows more “interest” is the higher-up, they must not allow their affections to overshadow a crucial fact: we must be careful with the commitments in which we put others from our position of power or authority

romantic relationships at work

On the contrary, there is also a risk of pressure from the other person, who can feel obliged to respond beyond their wishes or may feel uncomfortable or intimidated. 

When such approaches are not cautious and are not controlled, the other person may experience them as harassment which, in addition to having significant psychological consequences and damaging the work dynamics, could even lead to legal consequences. 

An emotional well-being program for companies

At ifeel, we offer you our global service of emotional well-being for companies, designed by our team of expert psychologists in well-being at work. This collaboration allows managers in the area of People, Talent, and Human Resources to receive personalized and data-based advice on how to take care of the psychological well-being of the teams they oversee.  

Do you belong to the Human Resources department of your organization? Try our program now to see how it could help you. 

In addition, our program offers all employees a complete mental health care service that includes emotional support and online therapy with one of our professionals.  

Don’t forget that in our Resources section, you can find different materials, such as podcasts and HR Guides on various topics (for example, a workplace well-being glossary, a guide to preventing burnout, or how to properly approach OKRs from an HR manager’s point of view). You also have interviews with top HR managers. In addition, we have a Psychosocial Risk Factors Template, which you can use to comply with the requirements of the Labor Inspection. 

We hope you found this post about romantic relationships at work interesting. If you would like more information about our emotional well-being program for companies, simply request it, and we will contact your team as soon as possible.

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