How do I deal with a work crush?


Jolie asks:

My question is, how do I deal with a work crush? It’s mutual, but we both aren’t going to risk are careers. We’re both unattached, but we work in a pretty traditional office setting. We’re not wearing suits every day, but it’s a small company. We aren’t in the same department, but we are on the same floor, but it’s not like we sit next to each other.

Demetrius says:

Two ways I want to approach this question, because “dealing” with a work crush can be done in two ways: Deal with them by making sure nothing romantic happens OR Deal with them in a way that allows for you to date and not risk your careers.

Let’s start under the assumption that want to deal with your work crush by pursuing them romantically:

First, check to see if your company has a policy against dating coworkers. Some companies explicitly do have a policy against this, but many companies, do not. If you work in a small company it’s entirely possible that your company doesn’t have any policies around dating your coworkers. In that case, try to figure out if there might be an ethical reason why seeing this person would be a problem, even if there isn’t a policy against you both dating. Basically, figure out if dating poses a conflict of interest for either of you. For example, if you worked in sales at your company, and they were responsible for providing the sales team with leads, dating them would pose a conflict of interest. If you’re in sales, and they’re in IT, that probably wouldn’t pose a conflict. If you report to them, or vice-versa, that’s a huge conflict of interest. That doesn’t seem to be the case for you, just throwing it out there because, hey, you never know.

Besides risks to your careers in an ethical, legal, or human resources sort of way, you have to consider what your relationship will be like professionally and personally if things work out, and if they don’t. While you might not work directly with this person, and it might be easy for you to avoid them if you needed to, you should consider what it would actually be like in practice. Whether you date and then live happily ever after, or if things end, amicably or otherwise. I can’t say for sure what will happen professionally or personally for you if you do decide to pursue things, that’s something you have to decide on your own. Some people can and will date coworkers and it’s not one bit of a problem. Some people, like me, have had office romances turn out poorly and regretted ever getting involved with a coworker. I’ve met and known people who dated in the office and I didn’t realize until years later, and I know people who have been married to each other the entire time I worked with them and I didn’t realize it. Alternatively, I’ve heard of people who left their job because their former office fling made their work environment incredibly uncomfortable.

Just keep in mind when considering the professional and interpersonal risks that you have to sort of guess at what their reaction might be if things end, and your own reaction if things end, especially if they don’t end amicably. Imagine you start dating, you find out they cheated and you still have to come in the office and risk seeing them on a daily basis while you’re processing being betrayed. How terrible would that be? How would you react to seeing them day after day?

Assess your risks from an ethical, legal, and human resources standpoint, and try to assess your risks from an interpersonal and professional standpoint. One other thing to keep in mind, people talk, so even if you do date, and things work out or they don’t, and you both are still cool with each other, you can’t stop office gossip. Especially in a small office environment. Just something to keep in mind.

Now, if you’re trying to manage your work crush in a way that you can both remain friendly, but not romantic, here are some pointers:

The biggest thing is probably going to be expectation management. Both for you, and them. If you’re both crushing on each other and it remains mostly innocent flirting with no real expectations, that’s perfectly fine. If you both aren’t on the same page for what that crush means, or where things will go, things could get awkward fast. If their expectations are that you’ll progress to dating, and your expectations are decidedly not that, you’ll need to do a little expectation management. I’m not saying that you have to come out and say “This can’t go anywhere beyond platonic, sorry” but you can do  expectation management in a simple way. If you feel like they’re coming on too strong, or you’ve gotten to the point where you feel too strongly for them, limit how often you see them and communicate with them. People tend to build connections either by frequency of contact, or by the quality of the contact. The best way to cool down a connection is to limit both the quantity and frequency of contact you have with them. Whether that means text/pinging/emailing each other less, limiting how often you grab lunch together, or avoiding after work hangouts with them, try to figure out a way to lessen your time spent in contact, and the quality of your contacts. You might need to change what you communicate to them , since I’m guessing that the way you both communicate is deeper than the small talk you have with your other coworkers. Much as it pains me to encourage small talk, it’s a simple way to create distance and avoid building deeper connections with someone. You don’t have to cut them off completely, or only talk to them about the weather and the weekend, just give them a bit of space. You want to cool things down, not put them on ice completely. Personally, if I saw or communicated with a coworker I had a crush on frequently, one that I knew I shouldn’t and wouldn’t date, I’d be a wreck. If that sounds relatable to you, consider creating a bit of distance to manage your work crush.

Of course, if ever it comes to it, you might just need to tell them point-blank that you can’t date them because of how risky it could be for both of your careers. Just, you know, have that conversation outside of the office.

Some work crushes never turn into anything more than playful, flirty banter though, so it’s entirely possible you wont have to do anything to change your behavior to deal with your crush. How you decide to deal with your crush is entirely up to you. Some people are going to be worth the risks that come with an office romance, and some people aren’t.

Good Luck Out There.

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