Romance is in the air this time of year — which can drive people to think with their heart instead of their head.
So if your boss, who has been admiring you for a while, finally decides to make a move, you’ll want to be prepared.
“Although office romances do sometimes leads to a long term relationship and even marriage, as a general rule it’s never a good idea to date the boss,” says Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “The Humour Advantage.” “There are so many pitfalls to dating the boss, including jealousy and perceived favoritism from colleagues, potential ethical violations, and the unintended and negative consequences that might happen if the relationship heads south.”
According to a Vault survey, 16% of those who have had a romance at work have dated a supervisor — but most of those relationships don’t work out. Another study from CareerBuilder found that only a third of office romances end in marriage.
So, here’s what to do if your manager asks you out:
'First, clarify if it is strictly platonic or not,' says Kerr. 'It may simply be a one off gesture of friendship. For example, maybe someone has canceled at the last minute and the boss has an extra ticket to a concert or sporting event and thought it would something you'd enjoy.'
Even in such a scenario, though, recognise that this could be easy fodder for the gossip mongers. You need to consider appearances and how comfortable you'd be if word spread around your office that you attended a personal function with your boss.
Think about how you feel.
Consider your own feelings. Are you even remotely interested? Are you attracted to them? Can you see things working out?
You wouldn't want to put your reputation and career on the line u
nless you're really into your boss and feel certain it's a good idea to strike up an office romance.
Weigh the pros and cons.
If you're even remotely interested, you'll need to seriously consider all the potential downsides of going out with your boss, including how ok you are with how other colleagues might react and treat you, Kerr says.
'Will you be comfortable with the potential gossip that might arise? Do you feel both parties will be able to keep it strictly professional and not let it affect your work? How will both parties deal with it if it doesn't work out? You need to have a completely open and frank discussion with your boss in a neutral setting to make sure all of your concerns are heard and acknowledged,' he explains.
Consider the long-term consequences.
Aside from weighing the pros and cons of going on a first date, you'll want to think even further down the line and consider the long term consequences if the relationship does indeed blossom into something serious and meaningful.
If you believe that 'love conquers all' then ask yourself, and your boss, whether one of you would be willing to transfer to another department or even take a position outside the company in order to avoid any conflict of interest and keep the relationship alive, Kerr says.
Check the company policy.
If you are interested and curious enough to consider a first date, check with your human resources department on what the company policy is, Kerr advises. 'Although less frequent than in the past, some companies have guidelines around office dating, particularly when it involves a supervisory position. If there is such a policy, share what you found out with your boss, and express your desire to keep things professional.'
If you decide to say 'yes,' set some ground rules.
If you decide there is no harm in going on a first date, consider setting some ground rules for how slowly you'll take things and how you'll deal with any perceived or actual conflict between your work and professional lives, Kerr suggests. 'What are the rules around letting other employees know or not? Do you feel the need to share the fact you're dating your boss with their boss? And if so, when is the appropriate time?'
Here are some other rules you should follow if you decide to date your boss.
If you decide to say 'no,' let them down diplomatically.
Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert, leadership coach, and author of 'Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant,' says if you decide you're not interested, or the cons outweigh the pros, you'll want to let the boss down diplomatically.
Kerr suggests meeting with your boss in a neutral setting away from all distractions and colleagues. 'Have an honest discussion about your feelings.'
Keep the tone and conversation positive by stressing how much you respect your boss, enjoy your work, and how you don't want anything to inadvertently get in the way of your professional development.
Taylor recommend responding with something like:
-'Thank you for the offer, but I want to be upfront and honest, and don't want to waste your time. I prefer to keep the relationship professional, but hope we can still remain friendly.'
-'I'm flattered, but I think it would be better if we just have a professional relationship.'
-'I view you as a great boss, and I wouldn't want to cross the line and jeopardize the good work we do, so I must decline.'
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