Five Rules if You Want to Date a Coworker

Feb 16 2022

Amanda DeMatteis: Hi, Josh.

Josh Goodbaum: Hi, Amanda. What are we talking about today?

DeMatteis: Well, I thought we would talk about Jeff Zucker, and I’ll just leave it at that and let you take it from there.

Goodbaum: Okay! So, what Connecticut employees can learn from Jeff Zucker about consensual romantic relationships at work. Here’s my down-and-dirty – no pun intended – five rules for employees who want to try to date at work.

Number 1: Check your employer’s policies. This might be unintuitive, but a lot of employers just prohibit workplace relationships. There’s risk that comes with workplace relationships, and if you want to risk your job in exchange for going on a date or hooking up with a colleague, that’s your choice. But I’d start by checking the policy.

Number 2: Your workplace is not the place for dating. If you want to ask somebody out that you work with, ok, there are ways to do that, but don’t do it at work. Don’t flirt at work. Don’t show off your relationship at work. No public displays of affection at work. The workplace is for working. That’s it.

Number 3: Make it official, by which I don’t mean put a ring on it. I mean, tell whoever is required by the handbook. The employer is going to have a policy. If the employer allows consensual workplace relationships, there’s likely someone you need to notify. When exactly do you have to notify that person? Earlier is better. No harm in notifying HR too soon that you’re going on a date with a coworker.

Number 4: Never pursue a subordinate or a boss. This may or may not be what sunk Jeff Zucker, but if somebody works for you, if they report to you, if they’re in your line of the chain of command, don’t pursue them. It’s a really bad idea.

For managers, the worst case is that you’re setting yourself up for a sexual harassment lawsuit. You’ll never really know if somebody you have authority over is actually wanting to go on a date with you or is feeling pressured to do so. So, that’s a bad move. If you have someone who reports to you and you just have this irresistible attraction, figure out a way to change the reporting relationship so you might be able to pursue it.

The same thing goes for pursuing your boss. It’s a little less risky from a legal perspective, but from a reputational perspective, it can be a problem. Do you want your coworkers thinking that the reason you got a promotion, or you got a bonus, or you got a good review is because of your sex life? Probably not.

So the safest thing to do is, lots of coworkers can be available to you, but don’t date within your chain of command.

Number 5: When you break up – and you probably will, since most relationships don’t last – memorialize it. Tell HR about it. And that way, everybody knows that we’re back to a not-romantic situation at work.

So, those are my five rules for how to try to have a consensual relationship at work. And maybe if Jeff Zucker had come to me beforehand, he wouldn’t have gotten himself in this situation, I’m not sure.

DeMatteis: And that always leads us to: talk to an employment lawyer if you have any questions. This was a great one. Thank you so much, Josh. We’ll see you next time.

Goodbaum: Bye!

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