Workplace Romance and Etiquette

20. January 2020

December is usually the time of corporate Christmas parties. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and platonic infatuation can unexpectedly turn into a workplace fling, or the love of your life. It’s nothing new under the sun. So, January is the ideal time to look at what etiquette and legal case law say about romance in the workplace. “In the Czech environment, we don’t come across much regulation of romantic relationships in the workplace, because Czech employers are tolerant of these relationships. The regulation of these relations is common abroad, especially in the legal systems of Anglo-American law. The employer therefore chooses to address this issue primarily through internal regulations, usually called the Code of Ethics. It is clear from settled case-law that the circumstance of starting a romantic relationship at the workplace cannot be the only reason for terminating an employment relationship.” So much for the legal aspects. However, the fact that we do not get terminated for romantic relationships does not mean that they will not complicate our life in the workplace – a place where we often spend more time in than at home.

How then to enjoy your sweet romance and not lose out on anything?

In every case, you should study the above-mentioned code of ethics at your company, so that you know what is permitted and what is not allowed. One of the better scenarios is that you are prohibited only from having a romantic relationship with your superior. So, if your passion is so strong that you cannot keep it in check during working hours, making it impossible to keep your relationship discreet, and that relationship is worth it, then you should try to get transferred to another department under another boss. Personally, I would rather transfer than try to resist the relationship. According to the Italian sexologist Serenella Salomoni, every fifth working person experiences a fling, flirtation or love at work, so this is nothing unusual. Moreover, feelings and sexual sparks flying lead to better career results, and the people concerned are happier, have more energy and are more productive. On the other hand, research confirms that women are those most likely to lose their jobs due to work romances because usually they hold the lower position, making them twice as likely to be dismissed as men!

That is why you should be discreet in any case

It’s probably complicated, but the moment you come into the office, your time belongs to the company, and not to your darling. Avoid innuedos, intimate comments and public displays of affection, to avoid unnecessary risk. If you have a disagreement with someone outside of work, do not try to address it in the workplace. This is precisely the moment you could lose your cool in the heat of passion and unwantingly reveal some detail of your personal life before your colleagues. Above all, we women must not forget our compulsive need to share private details with our colleagues at work. Here, more than anywhere else, it applies that “two can keep a secret, but three lead to betrayal”. It is enough that only you two know about your love! Likewise, forget about discussing discrete business matters with your counterpart, which should be kept secret. He or she could sometimes lose control, and let something confidential slip, putting both of you at risk.

Be careful with correspondence

Forget about personal correspondence by email or phone during business hours. It could easily happen that, instead of a private e-mail or phone call, you send your expressions of love to your Mr. Amazing or Ms. Amazing using a work e-mail or work phone, and that is, as we know, very public! And not to mention what we know all too well: in the stress of work, you accidentally click on the reply-all button and suddenly the fact that he “kisses like a god” or that you secretly call him “pompom” is known by the entire corporation at home and abroad.

Moments Alone

Forget about these altogether. It will be really hard, and require a good deal of self-denial, but on the other hand, one revealed brief touch or a secret kiss can cost you your hard-won benefits, and might not be worth it. Be wary of elevators and parking garages – “Big Brother” is everywhere today, often in the form of your colleagues and supervisors. Your biggest test, however, will be at a company party. Here you should strictly adhere to the one glass rule. Otherwise, just as last year’s party brought you together, this year’s can break you up. All that’s needed is a little alcohol, loss of self-control and trouble is in the making.

And what if the fairytale ends, and a break-up happens?

Of course, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but sometimes it just takes a while for each of us to find the right partner. Up to 75% of breakups are initiated by the woman, who then feels more self-confident. I can’t say that’s how it is for sure – maybe they do end up more self-confident later, but at the time they certainly aren’t at the peak of bliss. Moreover, to break up and stop seeing each other is certainly much easier when you both live in opposite corners of the city, than it is when you have to see each other every day at meetings with the boss or at the only coffee machine in the office. Surviving all of this, keeping everything hidden under the surface–which is an absolute must—and without even a cup of coffee, you must acknowledge is simply impossible.

I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments of “Carpe diem” and “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”. But in this particular life situation, I would be cautious more than in any other and weigh the pros and cons thoroughly before jumping in. From my heart, I wish that you may always gain more than you lose in life!