This morning I appeared on the Hill-Man Morning Show, a Boston radio talk show on WAAF, to provide a little advice on navigating the workplace and love.  You can listen to the segment here during which I provide 5 Tips on How to Date at Work and Stay Out of Trouble.  While the morning show was intentionally lighthearted, particularly on Valentine’s Day when ‘love is in the air,’ sexual harassment is serious business.  Don’t let yourself get into trouble.  Think about the implications of your advances before you act on them.  The 5 Tips are as follows:

Check Your Company Dating Policy

Many companies have policies with respect to dating at work.  These policies most frequently prohibit Supervisor’s from dating someone in their chain of command, but sometimes workplace ‘fraternization’ is entirely prohibited.  Also, are you required to notify your company that you are dating?  Or sign a ‘relationship contract’ stating that the relationship is voluntary and consensual? Check out your company’s policy to ensure you are not violating it.

Manager or Supervisor with Power and Authority – CAUTION

If you are a manager, and the person you are interested in is within your chain of command – see Tip 1 and even if permitted by your company tread lightly and with caution.  Also think carefully about whether you have power and authority over the terms and conditions of his or her employment even if you are not a direct supervisor.  When you have power and authority over someone’s workplace, it may make him or her feel compelled to submit to the advances or relationship out of fear of reprisal. This can lead to legal claims.  Also, as a supervisor, your company is liable for any unlawful sexual harassment by you regardless of whether it knew what was happening. (Whereas a company is only liable for sexual harassment between co-workers if it knew about the harassment and failed to take steps to stop it.) Companies take liability seriously and your job could be on the line.

Promotions and Advancement

Even if you are not in the same chain of command as your love interest today, what will happen if you or she (or he) receive a promotion or transfer down the line?  How will that impact who has power and control and will your relationship run afoul of company policy?  How do you intend to deal with this if you are still together when the promotion happens.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Not every relationship turns into a happy marriage.  Think hard about how you will be able to handle seeing and working with this person every day in the office or out in the field if or when the relationship ends.  Will you be able to handle it?  Will he or she?  Retaliation after a relationship ends is unlawful.

The Golden Rule – Respect

Use the Golden Rule: treat people how you want to be treated. Let’s face it, everyone wants to be treated with respect.  If someone was interested in you but you did not reciprocate, when would you feel enough is enough? If someone were making crude or demeaning remarks that made you feel uncomfortable, how would you feel?  Apply the Golden Rule with a dose of good old R-E-S-P-E-C-T and you should be able to keep yourself in line.

In sum, love and dating are just as much a part of the workplace as it has been throughout history.  What’s important is making certain that the interest is truly mutual and consensual.