Dear Di

Company policy? Never heard of it. Photo: Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas/CC/Pixel
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Dear Di,

I’m working a job that I absolutely love, doing something that I love doing. Work-life was going great for me until … enter hot coworker. We made out one time in the elevator, and the rest is history. Intra-office romance is strictly prohibited, according to company policy. No one else at work knows; can it stay that way? I don’t want to lose this job. 

— Against Company Policy

Dear ACP,

There’s something especially hot about having to keep a fling secret, isn’t there? That’s not to say that that heat can’t quickly fizzle away into fear or even resentment. Nor is it to say that you’re not walking a fine line in terms of your employment situation. But it’s hot, no?

In all seriousness, this is a common and puzzling predicament. If your question is can it stay secret forever, the answer is no. But if your question is ‘should I end it,’ well that’s a little more complicated.

I feel like you’ve only provided me with half of the information here. You preface your question with the fact that you absolutely love your job. But how do you feel about hot coworker? If this is just a fling, then it’s pretty harmless. You’ve had your forbidden fruit; end things now and you can eat it, too. If feelings are involved, things get a little stickier. Don’t they always?

If you’re pursuing a relationship with this person, you might be in trouble. There are two possible ways this goes. One, you keep it a secret. Two, you tell your workplace. 

In the first scenario, the fun can get sucked out of the secrecy thing pretty quickly. Soon you’re going to feel a lot of pressure to keep things private, which can put a lot of stress on your budding romance. Also, you’re missing out on a huge part of being in a relationship — socializing together — by keeping this from your other work friends, and that could suck too. 

In the second scenario, it goes one of two ways. One, you tell your boss. They don’t actually care that much — “company policy” can be handed down from several levels above them, and it’s possible it doesn’t mean much to your boss personally. You walk out of your boss’s office hand in hand and the entire office cheers and hot coworker sweeps you into a romantic kiss. Hollywood close up. The end. 

Unfortunately, the more likely response is that your boss is pissed, and one or both of you are reprimanded, or worse yet, fired, and you resent each other forever for ruining your careers. It ends with a bitter breakup. 

And that’s all without the scenario where you date, secretly or not, and things are fine, but then you break up and have to see this person every day. That too is a sucky and likely scenario.

My advice? Take stock of your company policies and evaluate your options — if they’re lax and allow workplace dating, then you’re good to go. But if it’s strictly prohibited or falls in the grey area, it might be best to weigh what you’re feeling values more to you: the job, or the co-worker. If you know the answer to that, your next steps should be obvious.