Office Romance: What to Do When You Like Someone At Work

You finally landed your dream internship or first real job, and you’re ecstatic to jump into your career. When you walk into the office, you’re ready to tackle everything from spreadsheets to press releases, until you set eyes on your extremely attractive coworker and your brain goes to mush.

We see it on TV all the time: the office crush that blossoms into a beautiful romance. But unfortunately for us, we’re not Jim and Pam from The Office, so falling for someone at work doesn't always end in happily ever after. We’ve asked two love experts for the lowdown on office romances and how to deal if you find yourself crushing on a co-worker.

Is it ever okay?

While pursuing an office crush is generally not the best idea, it can be permissible to start a relationship with a coworker under certain circumstances.

The best-case scenario is if you’re both temporary interns and work in different departments. Again, you have to check the company's policy about office relationships, but if you're not breaking any rules, wait a little bit and then you can pursue something. "If you're both summer interns, [toward the end] of your internship, you can start to hang out on the side," Smith says. "Get to know them outside of work. Do you really like them? Then you can pursue something more serious after your internship ends."

But if you work in the same department, and it's a full-time job, then it gets a little trickier. Smith suggests you stay away from situation entirely, but if you truly feel strongly about the person, you may have to make some sacrifices to make it work.

"If you feel like this person is your destiny, become work friends with him or her first," Smith says. "After six months to a year and you’re still enamored with them, [one of you] should look for another job within the company. For most larger companies, if you're in different divisions, you can date or get married. Then have a serious conversation about it and talk to HR."

So yes, you may be able to have a Jim and Pam romance after all, but generally speaking, office romances tend to be more complicated than fun. Really think about your goals, professionally and personally, give it some time and then decide how serious you are about your crush. Don’t risk ruining a great career opportunity for a relationship that may not last.

Consider the consequences

While you might have daydreams of flirting at meetings, hanging out at office parties and giggling over how you two first met, pursuing an office romance often has negative consequences for your future career.

"The big thing here is to be cautious," says Jodi RR Smith, etiquette consultant and president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. "Some companies have explicit rules for inter-office dating, especially if you're an intern. It could cost you your job!"

Even if your company doesn’t have set rules about coworkers dating, you still need to think about all the possible outcomes "[Some downsides of an office romance are] uncomfortable situations if it doesn't work out and awkward next days,” says Adam LoDolce, dating expert and founder of Sexy Confidence.  "And of course office gossip."

You may be stepping into the real world, but that doesn’t mean that adults don’t gossip like high schoolers. Even if there's a hint of romance between you and another co-worker, people will definitely talk about it. "You could become the star of office gossip!" Smith says. "It's extremely unprofessional. You want people to be talking about your career, not your love life."

The bottom line is that office romances have a negative connotation, particularly if you’re an intern or new hire. It’s hard when you can’t control your feelings, but take a step back to consider all the consequences of acting on an office crush.

How to get over it

Just because you’ve decided that you shouldn’t pursue you feelings doesn’t mean they just go away. Obviously it’s hard to ignore the butterflies in your stomach when he looks your way or when she says hi in the morning, but the best way to deal with an office crush is to remember why you’re there: your job.

“It all comes down to discipline,” LoDolce says. “Remember why it’s a bad idea. On top of that, avoid situations you’re alone with your crush and don’t break the touch barrier with him or her. Focus your energy in meeting people in other situations that are less risky to your career.”

If you find yourself day dreaming about your crush or figuring out what to say to him or her next, just remind yourself that it’s not a good idea and then focus your energy on whatever task you’re doing. Ask your supervisor a lot of questions. Shadow another coworker and see what they do in a day. The more you immerse yourself in your internship or job, the less you’ll think about your crush.

Beyond that, Smith says the best way to get over an office crush is to meet new people outside of work. “Find a love interest somewhere else!” she says. “Go to happy hours after work, join an alumni organization in your city or join a co-ed intramural league sports team. [When you] meet other people your age, you might find a more appropriate love interest.”

While it may be tempting to flirt with your coworker, just keep it cordial and professional. Treating your crush as a friend rather than a love interest will help you stay focused on your job. And then putting yourself out there after you leave the office will distract you enough to get over your crush and move on.

Sometimes, we can't help who we like, which makes falling for someone at work really tricky. But if you consider the consequences, focus on your job and meet people outside of work, you'll be able to get over your office crush. If it’s someone you’re truly serious about, you might be able to make it work, but generally speaking, save the romance for outside the office.