It is possible to find love in a hopeless place. Your office may feel like the place your soul goes to die but, occasionally, it can be the backdrop for your very own bonkbuster, just in time for Valentine’s Day tomorrow.
However, office romances require diplomacy. It is possible they will go sour; it is likely that they will start to irritate everyone around you. Moreover, in the light of #MeToo, it is important that they are conducted appropriately. On this theme, this month it was reported that Facebook and Google have banned employees from asking colleagues out more than once — if a first attempt is rebuffed, they must not pursue the love connection. It makes playing hard-to-get difficult. Facebook has also stated that staff must declare relationships if there is a possible conflict of interest and says it is creating “love contracts” for such a purpose. CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a sensitive soul.
Sadly, contracts are rarely sufficient for negotiating the complexities of human emotions. This is your guide to (respectful) love in a controlled climate.
Do ... Ask people out privately
Email, ask them to meet you in the canteen, message them in your own Slack channel.
Do not blurt anything out in the middle of the office. It feels thoughtless, they’ll probably pretend they think you’re joking, and if you ask publicly the relationship becomes public property. Duly, everyone becomes a David Brent: nudging, winking and heckling when you enter a room; asking probing questions about your sex life.
Don’t ... Become a unit
The easiest way to keep the office on-side is to play it low-key. Obviously, don’t snog at the photocopier or play footsy in meetings — you’re not a teenager, or starring in low-budget, low-rent pornography — but similarly, do not become a gang of two, eating lunch alone, segregated drinks on a Friday, doing coffee runs for two. Also, if you break up you won’t have any other friends.
Don’t ... Work together
If the relationship is serious (“big conversation” klaxon), ask to be placed on separate projects.
Otherwise, other members of the team will gripe about your perceived “favourable” treatment; also, it will be awkward if you disagree and things turn nasty.
Do ... Schedule holidays sensibly
If you’re keeping your relationship on the downlow, don’t blow your own cover by asking for the same week off on the morning after the night before’s booking bonanza.
Don’t ... Refer to your “love contract”
Weird, smug “joke” that ages fast. Sign it and never talk about it again.
Don’t ... Plot anything
This isn’t House of Cards: if you’re sitting in bed plotting a coup, then you both probably need new jobs and definitely need new hobbies.
Don’t ... Be unkind
Inexplicably, the emotionally awkward often overcompensate for strong romantic feelings by treating their lover with disdain in public; a not-very-adult version of pulling someone’s hair because you like them. Sure, don’t use pet names in public — but if you’re treating them like filth to prove a point, they might make their own by shredding the love contract.