Story by by Paul Nakayama and Naomi Fujimoto.
Is workplace “commingling” a good idea? Guest columnist Naomi Fujimoto says all’s fair in love and work, but Paul Nakayama wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot laser pointer.
Workplace dating is the stuff of great drama. Glee and Grey’s Anatomy — where would they be without it? And what about The Office — the shrugging, the fumbling, the knowing glances? Even on 24, with the fate of the world in question, they still found time for love. All in a day’s work. But enough about TV. I’m real-life proof that you can get your honey where you get your money.
Whether you’re looking at each other over an operating table or a corporate cube, your co-workers see you at your best and your not so best. You see how they deal with stress and relate to other people. And whether they can follow through. In the workplace, people are themselves. Sober. Decent. Good relationship material. (If you’re just looking for a hookup, stay away from your nine-to-five crowd. Sleeping your way to the middle is a bad idea.)
I’m Japanese and an editor, so it won’t be revealing much to say that I love rules. I love that they help me figure out how people will act at work — and, possibly, outside of work. While I can’t say that every girl wants a hero, I like a guy with good problem-solving skills. Responding to an IT “code blue,” Sean had a confident walk that made him look like he could handle anything. Including me. I had to find out whether he was a MacGyver or a MacGruber.
Our romance started small, tiny even, as workplace entanglements often do. When he stopped by just to say hi or lingered in the hallway, my office mates noticed. One day we went to lunch (Asian fusion, natch). Soon I saw that he could troubleshoot my Mac and share his fries. This unofficial stuff paved the way for our office courtship. Pre-dating can last weeks (if you’re lucky) or years (if you’re me). With all the visits and lunches and hallway conversations, this face time will further your status more than Facebook. Same with those happy hours, where your guy can put his hand on your back to help you throw darts.
Ah, the happy hour. As long as you’re not a boozer or a bimbo, the happy hour is your friend, the one that encourages you and your work buddy to pair off. Enjoy it! But here’s where I’ll come back to the rules again. Keep it rated PG! When you think “workplace grind,” visualize your efforts on a big project, not on the dance floor. (For real. My friend had to see her co-worker dirty dance at the company party. Ew.) Your office friends will be happy for you, but you don’t need to flaunt how in lust you are. Chances are, they noticed the chemistry before you did. They are, after all, people who see you 40-plus hours a week.
Sure, you could meet someone online or in a bar or through a setup. Or you can sit back and see what happens with that guy you always go to lunch with. Maybe it won’t go anywhere. Or maybe it will go somewhere for just a few months, like it did for Sean and me. We broke up recently, and the vibe at lunch has changed. No regrets, though. He was a MacGyver — just not mine.
My awful truth? Workplace dating might seem inexcusable or irresponsible, but it’s also irresistible. If you’re willing to risk a few awkward moments in the elevator, give it a try.
Imagine an adorable bear cub playing with a ball; you can’t help but fawn over it. You approach, unable to stop yourself from petting it. It coos as your hand approaches its face. It is so darn cute! Then suddenly, the cub growls and bares its fangs and mauls your pretty hand into meat strings. You scream and panic, stumbling over your dumb self as you try to escape, but then you realize that you’re locked in a cage. You slap your forehead with what’s left of your hand and curse your own foolishness as that once cuddly bear cub leaps onto your back and takes you down. It’s a horrible tale, I know, and yet so many befall the same fate, except instead of loving a cute but vicious animal, it’s dating a co-worker.
As my warm little analogy illustrates, dating a co-worker is a dangerous proposition. Think about how many of your exes were brutish, annoying or clingy. You sighed constantly with deep relief when things ended. Now, think about the good ones you’ve had. In an office setting, what are the real odds that you’d meet one of the few good ones and none of the horrible trolls?
Imagine walking to the copy room and running into your ex, the bipolar one who’d refer to himself as “we.” And they’re demanding, “Why did you leave us? Why why why? (And are you done with the copier, skank?)” That would certainly be a good time to run away, but oh, that’s right — you can’t because you work together.
Breakups are manageable when you have space or at least an escape route. Not possible with an office tryst. Or what if it was your heart that was broken? During the Halloween party, you hook up with that longtime crush of yours from accounting, only to discover later he was boofing everyone. Work is miserable enough as it is without having to see some douche bag’s face every five days out of seven. Eventually, you’ll see him hitting on someone new at the office, repeating the same coaxing lines. Your fists will be clenched in anger, and your poor laptop will “accidentally fall down some stairs.” I can’t even begin to warn you against the dangers of being around the open bar at the company holiday party … you’ll be fondly remembered as the drunken mess that flung cheese at everyone like it was poo, all while sobbing openly like a Bieber groupie.
I get why office romances happen. The fact is, it’s hard meeting people after college, and you spend more time with co-workers than your best friends. Things happen. And there are plenty of examples of people finding real love in the office. So why not, right? Well, there’s more to lose in an office romance. These things often end poorly, and you’ll only succeed in making your sucky job even suckier. I’ve been in one or two myself that ended in less than desirable ways where the consolation prize is a giant bag of awkward. In this economy, I think it’s better to have a job than a chance at love, the same chance I could take at my other usual hangouts: the karaoke bar, the 7-Eleven or my parkour club. Because looking for love in the office is a man-eating baby bear that will devour your heart, and it’s just common sense not to wrestle bears.
This story was originally published in our Fall 2010 issue. Get your copy here.