What You Need to Know About Asking a Co-Worker Out
While we know that television often glamorizes certain fantasies, one would be excused for believing in the idea of finding love in the workplace. Take the hit sitcom The Office, for example. Who wouldn’t want to find the Pam to their Jim or vice versa?
Of course, dating in the workplace has become much more complicated in recent years, especially in light of the #MeToo movement. More complicated, however, does not mean totally off limits. Even in 2020, it may be possible to ask a co-worker out on a date, but it is important to do so with great care and respect for your co-worker as a person.
Know the Rules
The first thing to keep in mind when it comes to dating a co-worker is that there might be rules against it, especially if one of you is in management and the other is not. In some workplaces, fraternization is formally prohibited. In others, it is merely frowned upon. In certain work environments, however—particularly those with many non-work interactions or after-hours events, workplace romances may be tolerated or outright supported.
If your workplace has rules against dating a co-worker, do not date a co-worker. Such rules are most likely in place because there were problems in the past. Sneaking around is rarely a good idea.
Understand the Power Difference
Many of the rules that still prohibit workplace dating apply only to those in different tiers of a given company. For example, most companies do not like the idea of a manager dating an hourly employee. The perception of special favors or influenced decisions can make a company not only look bad to other employees but it can also open the door to claims of sexual harassment. If the hourly employee starts moving up the corporate ladder, one might question whether it was due to the relationship with a manager.
Be Friends First
Assuming you are looking to date someone who is not at a different level in the company or who is in an entirely separate part of the company, your best bet is to become friends before you pursue any romantic efforts. Take breaks together, and get to know one another. In doing so, you will also probably determine how open the other person is to taking the next step.
Be Professional Either Way
Human resources managers suggest that asking a co-worker for a casual date like a cup of coffee is a good starting point. It is low-key and safe, and it can be just a “friend thing” instead of a “date.” If your crush declines your invitation, accept it, move on, and continue to treat that person with the respect he or she deserves as your co-worker. Asking a co-worker for a date one time is not sexual harassment, but if you continue to pressure the person, it could become harassment.
If your crush accepts, it is important to still be professional. Do your best to keep your work life and love life separate, despite the obvious overlap. Keep in mind that if the person complains, and you are terminated as a result, know that it is not illegal for an employer to terminate an at-will employee for any reason or no reason at all.
Are You Being Sexually Harassed? A Chicago Workplace Discrimination Lawyer Can Help
Being open to the idea of a workplace romance does not mean that you must endure unwanted, ongoing sexual attention from your co-workers. If you feel that you are being sexually harassed at work, contact an experienced Illinois sexual harassment attorney at MKFM Law. Call 630-665-7300 to schedule a confidential consultation today.