While most people don’t find a problem with letting their co-workers know about the love blossoming between the cubicle walls, the fine print of many company contracts says a little something about office romances. Usually, this fine print is a warning of some kind, so it’s often a good idea to conceal your passionate office romp.
And even though it’s not recommended to indulge in an office romance, sometimes emotions — and hormones — get the best of you. So, in case you’ve had some trouble controlling the urge to hit on the receptionist, we offer you a set of guidelines on how to conceal an office romance. For the sake of your job, pay attention.
Don’t change your routine
The best way to conceal an office romance and cast a protective shell around your new relationship is to maintain your schedule throughout the work day. Nothing should change. People always notice significant changes in routine, especially if they’re the gossipy office types, so avoid doing anything out of the ordinary. This means no lunches with your new partner — especially if you’ve never been known to socialize with this person on a friendly basis before.
To conceal an office romance, keep the same meeting schedule, take your lunches as you always did before (perhaps with everyone else in the lunchroom), arrive and leave work at the same time, and so on. You might succumb to temptation every once in a while and arrange a quickie in the bathroom, but that’s another issue altogether and isn’t something that is seen by others — hopefully.
Keep it to yourself
You may have a few close friends at work with whom you really want to share the events of your recent hookup, but you can’t give in to this urge. This is a very crucial rule to follow when you want to conceal an office romance. Don’t brag to them in your office and send them away with a vow never to tell anyone. They’ll nod and swear to God, and a week later that guy in Accounting will be shooting you a sly smile from across the room.
It’s acceptable to tell friends or family who don’t work in the office, but you better make damn sure they have no possible connection to your workplace. If you play your cards right, nobody will ever guess that you two are counting the minutes until quitting time just so you can spend some time together.
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Don’t document it
There are a number of ways to conceal an office romance while communicating with your love during the workday. If you’re not careful, however, you might leave a trail of bread crumbs that leads directly to your secret. For example, you might think you can get away with sending 100 e-mails back and forth every day (e-mail is supposed to be private, right?), but do not use your business address. Most companies have internal servers that can track any and all e-mails sent between employees, and if anybody over in IT happened to look, they’d find more than enough evidence to convict.
Post-it notes are one of the greatest office inventions in the world, and it’s very tempting to write something sweet that’s partially encoded in something work-related. Post-its, however, don’t stick as well as they should, and they’re really bright and eye-catching — especially when they’re lying on the ground. Restrict yourself to cell phone texts and voice mail; anything that has a chance of being seen by a coworker isn’t worth the risk.
Avoid attending office social gatherings together
The biggest problem with the office Christmas party and happy hour at the local bar is that two factors that could out you are involved: alcohol and gossip. Even if the two of you are never within 10 feet of each other at one of these get-togethers, you’re still taking a relatively big risk. You always have to be careful in the office to conceal an office romance, but you can’t imagine how precarious an employee social gathering can be. All it takes to set off a rumor wildfire is one slightly tipsy secretary who asks a particular question, and your answer can be interpreted in a variety of ways. So, the best thing to do is maintain the “Don’t change your routine” philosophy because purposeful avoidance is just as big a tip-off as always going to social functions together would be.
Perhaps you can go to that Halloween costume party while your significant other goes to the celebratory dinner on Friday, but at the same time, you might both attend the Christmas party — only you show up at staggered times. There’s no such thing as a “routine” if there’s no relationship between two people, so there’s nothing to notice if you keep everything varied.
Nevertheless, you should never underestimate the power of a few drinks and a casual atmosphere, which can quickly turn into a feeding frenzy; all the office gossips need is a whiff of blood in the water, and the sharks go nuts.
Don’t let it affect your work
You can send a few lovey-dovey messages via your cell phone, or exchange a brief kiss in the stairway, but you can’t let this relationship affect your work. First of all, you didn’t get to where you are by shirking your daily duties, and second, you’re already risking your future at the company simply by being with this person. If anything, work harder to compensate for your transgression, which may give you a slight edge if anybody ever finds out.
Hopefully, you’re very busy, because this can help a great deal. Your mind will be on your work, and you really won’t have time to risk exposure. However, if you’re a part of middle management and spend 40 hours a week in the office but actually only work about 15 hours, things can get troublesome. You’re thinking more about your new partner and probably scheming to hook up throughout the day, all the while ignoring your responsibilities. If that happens, you’ll fall into a whole other set of problems that can directly impact your wallet.
LOVING 9 TO 5
While an office romance is a very common occurrence and not quite as taboo as it once was, many hurdles remain. The workplace still presents a lot of gray area when it comes to romantic excursions between employees, so in order to play it safe, it’s often best to keep your little fling under wraps. Pay close attention to the little giveaways that leave you open to suspicion.
Realize that your environment consists of people simply begging for some office drama in the midst of their boring workday routine, so don’t give them any ammunition that could ruin your afternoon tryst in the stairwell.