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I understand that usually, it's not considered a good idea to date coworkers, because it can lead to personal problems spilling over into the office and negatively affecting the company.

My question is: does this advice also apply to employees of companies that your company does business with? To give a concrete example for my situation: one of the receptionists at the front desk of the office building my company rents office space in. They're not direct coworkers, but on the other hand personal problems might still end up affecting the company.

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    It's not about affecting company but yourself. Would you be eager to company into the office if you would need to see/meet that person every day if things go sour? – SZCZERZO KŁY Feb 13 at 9:27
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I understand that usually, it's not considered a good idea to date coworkers, because it can lead to personal problems spilling over into the office and negatively affecting the company.

Why would you value the company more than your personal life?

The "issue" with dating co-workers is that if the relationship goes south then you'll still have to see them and behave professionally every day. That's all.

Date who you want, be a professional at work if it doesn't work out (or also if it does), and there's not really a problem. It's honestly that simple.

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    This. A company will never put your interest before theirs, so why you should you ? – user3399 Feb 13 at 10:12
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    @TymoteuszPaul Sure. That person doesn't sound like a professional, OR a mature adult though. And it's on them. The OP shouldn't have to have that immature person's actions affecting their own life and happiness. – Player One Feb 13 at 10:45
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    @PlayerOne We no robot, we human. Feelings happen, make people less rational, and without a time machine, you cannot know how you will react to having to work side-by-side with someone who cheated on you with another person close to you. So telling people to just "be professional" is pretty useless, as you assume that people acting in less than ideal way do it intentionally which is rarely the case. Gotta weight the actual risks of wanting to date, not just go "If it goes bad, we will be 100% professional all the time". – Tymoteusz Paul Feb 13 at 10:47
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    @TymoteuszPaul The ex I referred to cheated on me as well, which is why we were exes. I've also had to deal with colleagues undermining and obstructing me, managers blaming me for their own failings, vendors trying to claim I was useless so that they could keep their contract after delivering nothing - being able to "be professional" is pretty far from useless IMO. But hey, if someone is unable to contain their emotions when they need to at their job then you're probably right and dating at work isn't a good choice. And nor is any other position of responsibility that comes with stress. – Player One Feb 13 at 10:53
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    None of the counter-examples being presented here in comments are really workplace-specific though. They support the idea of don't date crazy people more than don't date coworkers. If someone's going to throw a monitor at you, they might do it in an office, or at home, or at the bar. – dwizum Feb 13 at 15:00
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My question is: does this advice also apply to employees of companies that your company does business with? To give a concrete example for my situation: one of the receptionists at the front desk of the office building my company rents office space in. They're not direct coworkers, but on the other hand personal problems might still end up affecting the company.

I wouldn't even say it's always a bad idea to date coworkers. It is a bad idea to date people that

  • you have any sort of authority over
  • have any sort of authority over you
  • you work with closely in your day to day

Everyone else is, in my experience and opinion, fine. Many successful relationships start in the workplace, and many couples meet there first. The reasons that the advice not to date people you work with is usually given is restricted to two main points:

  • Dating superiors or subordinates is always a conflict of interest. You cannot act as an objective judge of your spouse when it comes to reviews, promotions and salary raises, and vice versa. Even if you somehow managed to mitigate that conflict of interest, the appearance of impropriety will still be there, so it is a bad idea.

  • Dating people you work with often and closely will be a severe problem if the relationship sours. That means one of you would have to quit or you'd both be miserable. Bad idea.

So it doesn't matter so much who is the employer of the person you are dating, but rather, what is the relationship you have with them. An office worker dating a receptionist in the building? Probably fine

A sales associate dating someone in the purchasing department of a customer? Very much not fine.

  • "A sales associate dating someone in the purchasing department of a customer? Very much not fine." I think that'd depend on the culture of the company, wouldn't it? If it's the sort of company that prizes "closing the deal" above everything else, you might get an approving slap on the back for thinking outside of the box. – nick012000 Feb 13 at 12:46
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    @nick012000 Or the customer might decide the decision for the purchase was made on the basis of nepotism by the purchasing associate and end up canceling the deal and never buying from you again. – Nzall Feb 13 at 14:00
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Unless this situation creates a conflict of interest, this rule doesn't apply. Generally speaking, low level employees that don't have much say over decisions being made should be safe, as per your example. For higher ups, you'll need to find workarounds to avoid the image of impropriety. If we tried to apply the rule to companies your company does business with, Microsoft or Google employees would have to be virtually celibate!

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There are a couple of things that can make workplace dating problematic:

  1. The real or perceived risk of favoritism. "He got the promotion because he's sleeping with the boss."

  2. The fallout if the relationship goes sour.

  3. Fallout if you have to choose between relationship and job.

However, a significant number of relationships develop between people who know each other through work. After all, it's where you spend a lot of time interacting with people on your own level.

Favoritism can be a problem both if it really happens, or if it's perceived to happen. Suppose you and a colleague both want a promotion, and you get it because you're just better. But you're dating one of the managers responsible for choosing who to promote. Your colleague may say that it's because you slept with the boss. This can cost you the respect of other colleagues.

Favoritism risk is something companies can try to manage with a "don't date people in your own reporting chain" policy. Obviously that's easier in bigger companies that have truly separate departments.

If the relationship ends, will you still be comfortable going to the same workplace? The answer can be yes; not all relationships end in bad ways. But you can't promise how (if!) things will end. So this is a risk you can't avoid if you date in the workplace.

What if you have to choose? Is this your dream job? Is this your soulmate? Would you be willing to switch to a different supervisor so that you no longer have a conflict of interest?


So, the right answer "depends". Dating in the workplace isn't always bad, but you should be aware of the risks, and never give people cause to question your integrity.

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    I would expand the bit with "if the relationship ends" with the fact that even if you are fully professional, the other party may not be. And this doesn't always mean that they will get the brunt of the get-professional stick, as it can very easily ricochet back at the other person in the relationship too. Gotta weight the risks as you wisely pointed out. – Tymoteusz Paul Feb 13 at 10:41
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    I try not to make jokes about pronouns these days, but ""They got the promotion because they're sleeping with the boss" makes for much better gossip. :-). – Jeffrey supports Monica Feb 13 at 12:38
  • @JeffreysupportsMonica it does for sure, but I thought it would make the post more confusing :P – ObscureOwl Feb 13 at 12:53
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There is two kinds of rules here that you seem to mix up.

  1. Don't have a relationship that could make you appear to be influenced in important decisions by it or that could make it appear as if you used your professional authority to coerce someone into that relationship.
  2. Be extra careful in general when trying to establish a private relationship with a coworker, the more private the more careful/slow to establish it you should take it and the more it could be a case of 1) the more you need to think about resolving the underlying issue that makes it a case of 1), i.e. you may need to switch departments if you otherwise are your spouses manager as his/her colleagues could see favouritism in your decisions, especially if you run a competitive team.

Probably both rules could be formulated a bit better to be perfect fits but I hope you can grasp the general intention. Rule 1 has been discussed in a few answers and should be pretty straight forward: Your company will not like it when you make them look "corrupt" to outside clients (e.g. if your spouse represents a client you do major deals with choosing their company over competitors) or when you poison the company culture because your team members think you favour your dating partner. Neither will they like the prospect of you opening them up to being sued for sexual discrimination etc. Obviously this is also potentially a career killer.

Rule 2 exists because you cannot walk away at the work place from a dating disaster. If you approach someone and that is unwarranted, clumsy or might even come across as creepy - even if accidental, in a bar you can walk away, never to be seen again and both of you will forget about it. In the work place that can easily mean your relationship with that colleague is poisoned. Have a few such cases or an overly irritated coworker and you might quickly be known as the guy or gal that wants to get into everyone's pants. Not a good career move either. And the other way around, even if it does not come back to you - many people consider work just work and they don't want to be annoyed by dating approaches in that environment, but they want to feel valued for their work, not be wooed for their looks and charisma. So it's also a question of respecting personal boundaries and in particular the boundary between private life and work life.

If you take it slowly, nothing speaks against dating someone from work. In fact, work is a perfect place to find someone suitable, as you can observe people under every day situations, how they react to stress and how the are at their worst rather than their polished best. It's also actually a good place to get to know the person and not the idolized sex object - if you properly take your time.

The work place (along with school/college) typically is one of the more common ways to meet a partner. While the number vary between different surveys,see for example this one: https://www.eharmony.com/blog/how-you-meet-your-spouse-matters/

And from personal experience, couples that meet at work typically also are more stable than couples that meet, say, on Tinder. Likely because the barrier to actually start dating (and make that visible) is also higher and people therefore take more time to decide whether they should make a move.

All that being said: Rule 1 would not apply. Rule 2 would to a slightly lessened degree. Feel free to make a move at some point, but be careful about it, i.e. just start to get to know that person rather than outright ask her for a date.

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