GNcareers, from Gulf News

The missteps that can happen when things get personal

The missteps that can happen when things get personalImage Credit: Supplied

When it comes to office romance, the rule of thumb is: Don't do it. Simply avoid mixing business with fun, love or any sort of personal relationship.

But in today's demanding lifestyle that leaves little to no room for personal relationships to develop, offices increasingly are becoming a place where new friendships form. And friends might get closer after a while — or on the spot — and end up in a private relationship.

In some cases, it is simply inevitable, and regardless to how formal this relationship is — anywhere from dating, to getting engaged or married — many complications can emerge as a result.

The potential for these complications might not be a reason to give up the one. But they should be something both partners consider and approach in formal and informal environments within the workplace to avoid any misunderstandings or problems down the road.

To do so, keep the following points in mind.

Time wasted

Employers worry about productivity more than who is dating whom. That is why you need to be conscious of how much time a new relationship is appearing to be sucking time from you and your partner. If both seem to be chatting excessively, texting, going on long lunches, missing out on meetings, etc, you may attract the negative attention from supervisors.

Remember, the initial 'happy for you' reaction of coworkers and supervisors can quickly fade if your work is being affected. So keep work a priority at the workplace. Similarly, stay professional and watch your attitude.

Being deeply in love can alter your judgement of how others perceive your relationship. So here is reality: Your work quality, professionalism and productivity are the top priorities.


Coworkers and management will worry about any perception or sign of favouritism, especially if one of the partners is in a reporting position to the other. To allay everyone's concerns, there are several actions to do. First, don't offer any preferential treatment. Second, explain any situation that might be misinterpreted openly.

If problems and gossip arise, address them professionally while taking the high road. For example, explain the merits that led to a promotion or the circumstances that offered this person a particular perk. Don't go overboard with these explanations, however.

Remember anything can be spun in different lights. So keep it simple and as matter of fact as possible.


It is hard to tell someone you love that you don't trust them enough to tell them what is happening within your work domain. But tearing down the walls of confidentially is a risky business. The extreme case is if you break up with this person, you are unable to judge how the information will be handled, or you make yourself vulnerable to blackmail.

But even in a much simpler scenario, sharing confidential information with someone who is unauthorised with your employer can lead to grave consequences if this gets leaked, by this person or even otherwise. The fact this person is — or in the process of — being family wont' help you. That is why just like you should keep your personal matters out of the office, keep work out of your private life as much as possible.

In addition, limit gossip about coworkers, especially documented gossip that is exchanged over company email. Name calling, jokes and pranks can all backfire if disclosed or forwarded by mistake. In short, stay professional about others and encourage your partner to do the same.


Private relationships at the workplace can have many drawbacks if they don't work out. Remember, the option of getting some space from an ex won't be there. Plus, if the break-up involves any grudges, the backlash can sabotage your job and your image, especially if the other person is being irrational or emotional.

That is why be selective and careful if you ever decide to get involved in a private relationship with a co-worker.

It might even get worse if the person is your supervisor or someone reporting to you. In this situation, the professional relationship might get complicated since you won't really be able to avoid dealing this person, exchange feedback, etc.

Love in the office

Maintain work quality and productivity.

Avoid any sign of preferential treatment.

Don't share confidential information.

Consider the consequences of a break-up.

Learn why you need to give up in order to go up the career ladder

Source: Rania Oteify, Special to

The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor