"Don't shit where you eat."
It's probably the most common mantra everyone hears if they so much as hint at the idea of being interested in a coworker. Organizations frequently implement no fraternizing policies and disciplinary actions to discourage dating amongst employees.
The stigma surrounding dating coworkers, however, ignores some convincing statistics. Studies show that couples who meet through mutual employment are more likely to be long-term or even married compared to other couples. According to the Daily Mail, 14 percent of couples who met through work ended up married, compared to 11 percent who were introduced by friends.
Another study by CareerBuilder.com concluded that 40 percent of people have dated someone they work with. I, too, was once attracted to my coworker.
I started a new job in a new city and was simply trying to expand my social circle. I began a seemingly platonic friendship with a coworker. We would openly talk about our dating life over cocktails at happy hour.
He was an avid Tinder user while I opted for the real-life route when it came to meeting new dating prospects. He then started seeing a somewhat naive college girl, who was six years his junior, and I was genuinely happy for him.
That's not where the trouble started.
Prior to my current job, the company I worked for at the time had experienced some structural changes. At the end of the year, we witnessed some massive layoffs, including our own bosses. My workload nearly tripled, and I often worked longer hours on heavier projects with no salary increase.
His stress levels heightened over job security since he was a temporary employee. At this point, we spent more and more time together, mostly venting our frustrations.
Our time together expanded from happy hour to include daylight hours. As you can imagine, he made a move on me and kissed me. He caught himself and made a swift exit before the situation escalated even further. I said to myself, "Just act like this never happened."
He texted me the following day asking to talk. Of course, my natural reaction was to say there was nothing to talk about. He said that he told his girlfriend everything, and he insisted I let him come over to my house to discuss things further.
As he sat down at my kitchen table, he described what happened as "intense." I responded saying, "So what? What do you want me to do about it? It happened, and now, it's over."
Obviously, this wasn't the response he was hoping for. Out of curiosity, I asked, "Is this thing between you and your girlfriend serious or casual?" According to him, it was "between being casual and moving onto serious."
My final question was, "What do you want to do? Better yet, what do you expect me to do?" As he shrugged his shoulders, his uncertainty spoke volumes without him saying a single word.
I wanted nothing to do with whatever game he was trying to play. I promptly made a lame excuse that I was "busy" doing my taxes to usher his exit.
Needless to say, our friendship ended. I only had to endure a few more weeks of awkward silences at work, as he left the company shortly thereafter. To this day, I'm not quite sure whether he quit or was let go. To be honest, I don't really care.
In all honesty, if he were single, this might not have escalated into such a big problem. Here is some advice to anyone considering being involved with a coworker:
1. Consider how closely you work with them. Are they on your team? Are they your lateral or your superior?
2. Is one of you considering leaving the company? If so, things might be significantly easier.
3. Just how much do you like this person or this job? If one strongly outweighs the other, that's your natural choice.
4. Can you manage your emotions enough to professionally handle whatever happens between the two of you, regardless of whether or not things work out?
5. Most importantly, are they in a relationship? If they are in any stage of a relationship, this will obviously cause potentially unnecessary complications.