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I'm based in Western Europe. Relationships among coworkers aren't rare here and I know several couples who met in the office, including bosses who married and had kids with their (former) subordinates.

However, obviously, there are many risks involved. I mean here the risk that you will be seen differently if the news about you dating becomes known or strange rumors. The risks also involve one part feeling pressured into something.

So there's this person I might be interested in. We work in different teams and don't currently interact much, apart from sharing the office space. What is the best way to approach getting to know him better without endangering my stance at work, keeping in mind we don't know each other well enough and I can't be sure if he's interested in me too.

We are both adults, with years of experience and my career is very important to me.

I think it's very much a workplace question, as the whole complexity of the situation is related to the fact we are coworkers.

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    All I will say is tread carefully. In any other environment if a person is made to feel uncomfortable, they can escape. But this is his workplace. – Gregory Currie Mar 17 at 14:28
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    Others have expressed valid points - I just wanna say good luck! – KlaymenDK Mar 17 at 18:22
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    Perhaps you first figure out whether you are really interested in this other person, and whether this other person is interested in you. If you are at the stage of "I might be interested in this other person", it's way, way too early to worry about how it's going to work out on the workplace. – Abigail Mar 17 at 19:29
  • As someone who's seen workplace relationships crash and burn several times and the fallout it caused, be very very careful. I hope you get get married and have lots of kids but if your relationship ends badly and depending on how you cope with a breakup, seeing this person daily might take a heavy toll on your mental health. I've seen friends quit their jobs to get away from a bad office romance. – Xander Mar 18 at 15:18
  • Yeah, while there can be problems (or perceived problems) with a workplace relationship, as long as both parties are sensible, it's fairly straightforward to make it work - and it happens all the time, there's no reason not to do it. The real difficulty can arise after a break-up... if things go badly, it can make continued employment at that company impossible. Believe me: I speak from personal experience. That doesn't translate to "don't do it!" because some things are more important than work, but it does mean "have an exit strategy, or be very, very confident you won't need one." – BittermanAndy Mar 19 at 11:43
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This is a tricky question. Workplace relationships can end up being very messy if they don't work out, and even more problematic if there is a management relationship, since there's potential for abuse and harassment.

That said, I met my wife in the workplace. We also had another married couple meet in the same company (of only 25 employees) about the same time. We worked together, but were peers rather than in a boss/employee relationship - and we continued to work together for a few years after.

I would suggest being careful, and taking things slowly. Firstly, you need to be sure that the other person is also interested. Suggest to them that you'd like to meet socially after work, and see if they'd be interested in continuing to meet socially. Importantly, make sure you are socially compatible. After that, things will likely develop at their own pace.

Importantly, if the other person doesn't show interest, back off.

As for reactions in the office - you can't really control that. All you can do is continue to be professional with this other person within a professional context. After my wife and I moved from meeting socially to dating, we both spoke to our immediate supervisors with assurances on our professional conduct - there was no problem, though.

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    Just to add: before asking them to meet socially, you should be having regular conversations with them in the office. – Dukeling Mar 17 at 20:49
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Similar to @HorusKol, I can answer as someone who is married to someone whom I met through work. The truth is, you spend a lot of time at work, with your coworkers - and most professional environments have their share of romances. It's nothing to be afraid of, but caution is definitely appropriate.

I'd give you the following advice:

  • Be sure you understand company policy. Some employers have formal policies stating that relationships must be disclosed; usually with the intent that disclosure would make it clear if there was any favoritism happening. Clearly, you should also make sure the relationship isn't causing favoritism.
  • Be sure you can separate personal and professional relationships with this person. The office is for work, not courtship. This maybe goes without saying, but if the two of you suddenly start spending every moment at work batting eyes at each other and giggling in the hallway, or planning your next romantic getaway, it's not going to go well.
  • Be ready for the rumors and gossip. There's really nothing you can do to stop people at the office from talking about your relationship, once people notice. The good news is, as long as you've got nothing to hide, there won't be much to talk about, and gossipers will move on. That is, as long as you're following the above advice about company policy and separating the personal from professional, there won't be anything juicy for people to talk about - at least, nothing different than gossipers would say about any other relationship whether in the workplace or not.

And as a matter of sanity for the two of you,

  • Keep your social interactions social. It's easy, especially if you know some of the same people in the workplace, to let "date night" turn into "talk about what's going on at the office." My wife and I would occasionally spend an entire date talking about work issues or who's doing what in the office. We quickly realized that was toxic for our developing relationship - we still let each other vent as needed, but we would make sure to balance it out so our relationship wasn't just about the office.
  • Talk to each other. Communication is important for many reasons in a relationship, make sure the two of you are on the same page about how the relationship is developing, how you're responding to (or not) gossip in the workplace, how or when the relationship is disclosed, how your interactions will change at work (if at all), and so on. Like it or not, there is a "business" aspect to the relationship, so you might as well address it. If you're expecting the two of you are going to eat lunch together every day, but he thinks you're trying to "keep the relationship secret" for whatever reason, there's going to be conflict. So, if/when things start developing, get it out in the open. "Hey, let's eat lunch together" or "I'm not ignoring you at work, but I also don't want to disrupt things or give the wrong impression to my team" or "Hey just so you know, I'm going to let my boss know we're dating" or whatever - saying it ahead of time is better than letting it be a surprise.
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I'm going to skip the dating advice, and assume the 2 of you end up together; the other answers seem to cover that part nicely.

I believe that people need their own space and time to be away from their partner and with other people. They also need to be able to go out for lunch with colleagues without stress (both for them and the colleagues).

The only way that I found that this could be done reliably was to get another job - for larger companies you might be able to get away with moving internally so that you don't react on a frequent basis unless you want to; but for small or even medium companies I'd say that just moving company is too easy now to not do.

  • So, you're going to not answer the question? – SH7890 Mar 18 at 20:57
  • @SH7890 The question of "How to do things right while trying to date a coworker?" you mean? I'm pretty sure I did; "don't work with the person you're dating long term" would be the executive summary. – UKMonkey Mar 18 at 23:46
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This is a somewhat culturally specific question - as some cultures are more upfront and business like with their personal interactions, while others have a necessary 'beating around the bush' nature.

I'll give my perspective as a New Zealander, where we have more of a tendency to beat-around-the-bush.

As you point out - plenty of people meet their partners in their workplace, so I'm not one to suggest that as a blanket rule you shouldn't attempt romance with someone you work with.

The key concept is that you want to avoid making the other party feel unsafe, harassed, or coerced. That's the key thing you want to keep in mind when broaching this subject.

One reason that that a workplace interaction can feel coercive or like harassment is because the subject is in a sense, trapped in that scenario. There's the sense that they can't walk off a job to avoid someone's advances because they might lose their job, or that one has the professional responsibility to be polite and friendly to their coworkers.

So if you can interact with your colleague outside of a work context that can give you more freedom to be more direct with a colleague, because in that scenario they are no longer bound by an sense of obligation to be polite, or to stay in the scenario.

So a good way to initiate things is to ask if they want to have coffee outside of work. That can be just coffee at lunchtime, in a place that physically different to the work place. Or it could be a cup of tea after work. From there you could suggest hanging out outside of work.

At that point, they might realise that you're interested in them romantically, and if they don't reciprocate your feelings, at least more apparent that you haven't tried to use a coercive dynamic to make the date happen. Then they can politely turn you down, the whole thing is less awkward than if you had tried doing it in the office.

One key thing to look out for:

  • When you are chatting with this colleague - are you connecting on a personal level, or are you talking about work? If they keep turning the conversation around to work then it might suggest that they're not they're only interested in interacting with you in a professional context. (Of course, they could just be an awkward person who only thinks to talk about work).

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