By Marc Alexander

Can romance survive and thrive amidst the cubicles, fax machines and smell of whiteout? Is it worth the risk of awkwardness and gossip to make a co-worker your Boo? The answer is fluid and conditional, it is specific and mercurial depending on the parties involved. I asked several female coworkers if they would consider a relationship at work and without hesitation they replied with a big fat throbbing “no.” But when I supposed that the fling/romance would be with the single guy in HR with four percent body fat, they both rethought and said “Oh, well maybe with him I might” – which is exactly what I mean: it depends.
Unless your office has a written in ink policy that prohibits romantic entanglements, I would never say never to an office romance. Ladies, just know that a lot could go wrong. There could be major drama if things go wrong. There could be ugly emails, horrible rumors, and confrontations by the water cooler. There could be major heartache if your crime of passion ends badly, followed by a sentence of having to see that person every day…for as long as you work together. Before putting in any work, you should decide which type of office romance you’d like to get busy with:

1. The “Fling.” Flings often start, heat up and end in the physical spectrum. A fling can consist of hot and heavy sessions before, after and sometimes during work and are mostly about an intense physical chemistry between two people. Flings bring quick satisfaction and can make a mundane workplace a lot more interesting.

But the same things that make flings fun can make them volatile and explosive – especially when emotion starts to cloud the steam. When your flingee is suddenly not available for whatever reason and you are disappointed or even worse, mad, you need to check yourself and remember it’s a just fling.

If you have made a relationship assumption based solely on a physical connection, please take a day off and untwist what you got twisted. Flings have the potential for being misconstrued emotionally – especially by women – who tend to be more emotional than men. If you notice that he has no desire to walk in the park with you, or see a movie, or do anything in public with you – and you do – take yourself off the fling train ASAP and recoup. Act like nothing has happened and refocus on work. You can’t turn a fling into a romance, so don’t waste your time.

2. The True Romance – The true office romance can be a lot more satisfying than the fling. It can begin as a fling and grow into something more or it can grow slowly over time – getting deeper and more serious with each work day. Office romances are more likely to be common knowledge among your co-workers than flings because the level of commitment is higher and you are proud of the one you are with.

But office romances can be devastating if they end badly. Imagine breaking up a serious relationship or worse, a marriage, and having to see your ex everyday for the rest of your time at your job. That situation can be gut-wrenching and too much for a lot of people. It could seriously affect your job performance and disrupt your ability to maintain your livelihood.

If you decide to take the leap and mix business with pleasure, there are a couple rules of engagement to follow. Communication is key, as usual, but so is discretion. Communicate only with your partner. Don’t tell your friends at lunch about your situation, and definitely don’t email your Soror in the Marketing department. Keep your cards close to the vest so when and if it ends, only you will know. And if you hear about it from somebody else, you’ll know it wasn’t you who told.

Office romance is all about managing expectations and the risk-reward equation. You have to be clear and honest with your expectations from the start. Gray areas are not an option as they can lead to frustration and confusion. Before you get in too deep, imagine the ending of the relationship and figure out if you can handle it. Know your partner and assess whether or not the risk-reward is going to be worth whatever you may have to give. Is the guy a talker? What does he want really? Does he say he wants more? Do you believe him? All of these questions need to be answered before you get involved in the work place. If you can’t answer all of those questions, then be prepared for whatever comes your way.

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