Situation 29: ROMANCE

Betsy gets romantically involved with someone at work. Billy advises her to handle the situation in a highly professional manner.

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A great leader:

  • Is professional and behaves in a fitting manner at all times.  She ensures that her behaviors are in line with organizational policies, particularly related to fraternizing with co-workers;
  • Has a frank and honest discussion with the person she is romantically involved with to understand the full implications and repercussions of their relationship on themselves personally and the organization.  She considers what to do if the romance ends, for example will they both remain in the organization?;
  • Has conversations with the relevant people internally, such as HR and lawyers to determine the best course of action to take and when and how to communicate to colleagues about her relationship.

How to best handle the situation:

If you are romantically attracted to a colleague at work think carefully about the full implications of pursuing the relationship before you start; do you collaborate on a frequent basis?  Can you remain objective and professional in your dealings with each other at work?  How will your colleagues/customers respond to your relationship?  Is it important that they know?  What happens if the relationship breaks down?

Consult with HR to determine if the organization has a policy on fraternization/work romance.  Discuss whether there are any negative consequences for the organization if you embark on this relationship.  Get a legal perspective to hammer out different scenarios and ensure you are both protected if things go wrong.

Talk with your intended partner to ascertain how strong the attraction is and whether it is worth pursuing given the risks for you both.  Consider entering into an agreement that outlines the parameters of your relationship at work, how you will behave if the relationship ends and what your employer expects of you.

Try to keep your relationship as private as possible, particularly during the early stages and remain professional at all times during work (including business trips) so that you do not become the focus of office gossip.

Learning suggestions:

  • If you are considering a romantic involvement with someone at work spend some time imagining both the positive and potential negative aspects of the relationship.  What are the best and worst things that can happen?  Do the good things outweigh the bad ones?  Is it worth the risk?
  • Test the water and go slowly to see how your relationship evolves and how well each of you handles the situation at work.  Consider if you are really looking for a relationship or just friendship.
  • Confide in a trusted colleague and see how he/she reacts.  Listen to his/her advice but remember to listen to your inner voice and do what feels right for you.


  • Do you know who your true friends are who will stick by you through thick and thin and route for you to do well and be successful?

Femcommunity tips:

We welcome your thoughts, experiences and comments on how you would deal with such a situation.

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