Dear New Shrink,

I need your help. I work with this really great guy and it’s obvious that we’re attracted to one another. We have begun spending more and more time together and I could see myself dating this guy. I have asked several of my friends for advice on the matter and all of them have advised me against dating a co-worker because it always ends in disaster. Is this a do or a don’t?

Signed,

Attracted to co-worker

Dear Attracted,

You’re not the first and you probably won’t be the last person who has had to deal with this dilemma. It’s really no wonder when we consider how much time we spend in the workplace — we share physical space with co-workers, meals with them, long hours with them, and some of our most stressful and successful experiences with them. In many instances these are the people who know us best. While I cannot tell you what’s right or wrong for you, it’s important that you clearly consider the more difficult parts of what you might be getting yourself into.

Start by reviewing company guidelines to ensure that there is not a policy against inter-office dating. While some companies only restrict relationships between supervisors and subordinates others limit all employees from entering such relationships. Disregarding such policies can result in one, or both, of you being asked to leave the company. Consider why these policies are implemented in the first place.

You also have to consider the impact, both positive and negative, this relationship will have on your professional life. How important is your job (or company) to you? Are you willing to accept the potential risk to your position, reputation, and professional relationships in order to create this new relationship? What are his or her feelings about these same issues? Also consider the various environments that you’ve seen your potential mate in. We often act differently in our personal and professional realms so consider how you might balance this within your romantic relationship.

Now, what about the potential consequences of the relationship? I hate to seem negative, but you must be honest with yourself about how you’ll feel if the relationship ends. While it’s natural to be excited about the opportunity to date a new person who you already get along with, you need to think ahead to what you’ll do if things don’t work out. This person may learn intimate details about your life so it’s important to consider how you’ll feel if he ends up sharing these details with others in your office. Not only do you have to balance the thoughts of what will happen to your current friendship but you also have to consider what will happen to your relationship with others in the office. You will still have to face this person on a regular basis and you risk the chance that your co-workers may also begin forming alliances toward one side or the other. You may also want to consider whether one of you would leave the company if the relationship ends. While it’s tough to think about an end even before the beginning considering these feelings can help you determine what’s right for you.

If you decide to date your co-worker then the two of you will need to have a serious conversation right away about how and if you will disclose this to others in the office. Even if you do keep your relationship private others may start to notice your new behaviors, so consider how you’ll handle being part of the rumor mill. Keeping your relationships secret may place added pressure to a beginning relationship.

Finally, consider how your relationship may impact your work. Will your work suffer because the other person distracts you or will you work harder to impress your new companion? If the two of you have a fight will you be able to keep that from affecting your work during the day? Planning ahead and considering the good and the bad parts of your potential relationship will be key to fostering a healthy work-love life balance.

Katrina Davy is a professional career counselor who has worked in both private and university settings. Katrina holds degrees from Cornell and Columbia universities. Got something on your mind? Send your questions to newshrink@gmail.com or check us out online at www.newshrink.com. All questions will be kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters!