How to make workplace dating work

This story was originally published on D'Marge.

Christmas is imminent, bringing - among many things – the annual office blowout. Excitement swirls, the rumour mill charges up, serotonin and alcohol flow in equal measures. Holiday-anticipating spirits are up, and so is your interest in Betty or Bill from accounting.

Some say hooking up with people in the workplace is off-limits. Personally, I'm all for it. And given that studies show that one in 10 people meet their spouse at work (and that's just the ones that last), I'm obviously not alone.

The stigma

The first thing that we all think when it comes to dating someone from work is, "What if it doesn't work out?". You'll have to face that person every day afterwards. It's an understandable concern. The ego stands right next to the career in front of the firing squad. Potentially.

Unfortunately, there is no absolute remedy for this. Dating being dating, there is always the risk of things going pear-shaped; that's the wager that you're forced to make with yourself the second you hit puberty and step into the dating ring. The fact stands – if you're willing to have a crack, there is a chance it could end in tears. It comes down to potential risk versus potential reward.

Taking the punt

So you've weighed up your options and you've decided to take the punt. Good work. But where to from here?

In my opinion, having experienced the odd workplace dalliance, the keys to making it work are: 1) calibration, 2) maturity, 3) non-neediness, 4) respect.

Calibration

Is there any interest from the other party whatsoever? Have you even spoken to them? Are they on your Facebook? Are they single? Do you chat at all after hours? You need to at least be on their radar. Clearly, calibration extends to the obvious fact that you work together. But even if you've worked up the courage to put your rep on the line, that doesn't automatically immunise the other party from having their own concerns. Subtlety is key.

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Maturity

You're both adults, so act like it. It might work, it might not – that is the risk that you take. If it doesn't work out, don't be bitter, don't be distant, don't make a big deal of it. So you had a drunken pash at the Christmas party? Great. But come Monday, are you going to be cool and collected, or awkward and weird? Any workplace relationship, be it a casual hook-up or something more, requires a considerable amount of self-control and maturity.

Non-neediness

As with all dating, if the other party knows that you're mature and non-needy, they will be a lot more comfortable taking up your generous offer. If they can see that you're emotionally strong and will be OK regardless of the outcome, it's one fewer worry to weigh up. But if they suspect you're the type to cry at your desk, bitch to your colleagues, get weird, or email relentlessly asking where this is going, then on top of the workplace considerations they also will be seriously considering whether you're a risk worth taking.

Respect

If explaining the simple concept of respect is needed, I'd advise against commencing any workplace flirtation.

The upshot

Ten per cent of the population can't be too far wrong. One bold move is better for all concerned than lingering years of creepy innuendo and/or desperation. They probably already know you're interested.

Ultimately, it needs to be a positive or neutral outcome. If it turns negative, you've ignored one or all of the four points above. The negative stigma around workplace dating exists because people exclude neutrality from the potential outcome, ie. you have some fun, and things return to normal. It can be done if the right people are involved.

You spend most of your life with the people you work with. And unless you're active after hours, you're likely not meeting anyone else.

Approach the situation with some calibration, maturity, non-neediness and respect - not to mention a good dose of discretion in choosing the target of your affection - and it can only go well, or at worst go nowhere.

D'Marge is one of Australia's most popular men's style and fashion blogs.

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