Do you work with someone you're dating, or perhaps a longtime partner or spouse? It can be difficult but also may have certain advantages. Tips on making it all a little easier.
1. Understand the importance of having a stable relationship if you also work together. In rather different ways, Bill and Hillary Clinton have lost out because of their less than harmonious relations.2. Don't tell colleagues at the first kiss, but avoid the situation where you think it's a secret and everyone else knows. "This is a disaster," says Ted, an observer of a three-year "clandestine" affair which was watched by the whole office. "You lose all credibility. Any decisions you make affecting your partner are open to question, and people are suspicious about all `work meetings' you have outside."
3. Consider "coming out" if you are sufficiently important, as others could suspect your decisions are affected by your relationship. Gregor worked out a PR strategy to present his workplace romance in an unthreatening manner to colleagues: he and his girlfriend both told their (sympathetic) bosses; he offered to resign if necessary; both told immediate colleagues ("I've a confession to make. . ."); and they nominated another worker to act as a referee or sounding board for any disgruntled colleagues. "The support of your manager is vital," he says. "It's very important people feel confident that both parties are doing the job properly."
4. "Keep work and home separate," advises Millie, on the basis of her four-year relationship. "We never had lunch together, so our colleagues saw us as individuals, not as a couple. We'd keep to a minimum discussions about `Can you pick up the cat food.' Sometimes we'd have to keep things confidential, but you could say: `There's something going on at work I can't tell you about, but it's causing a lot of tension.' "
5. Recognize that you need to be particularly adept at communicating with each other; otherwise your little spats or jealousies can translate to work. Gregor says: "It's not on to have a row on Thursday night and then say on Friday morning `I want a copy of that research paper.' She might want to say: `Get away, I'm giving you nothing.' "
6. Appreciate the good sides. Charlotte Desorgher owns and manages the Grand Design PR and design company with her partner of 15 years. "There are enormous benefits," she says. "If you've had a difficult time, you can have a cuddle. They know what you are talking about. We've made some of our best decisions in the bath. Last year, he worked from home for a while and it was awful, horribly awful." They also have clear work parameters; "He'll give way to me on a management issue, if necessary. And I'll give way to him on a creative issue."
7. Expect someone, somewhere, to throw flames at you. The sight of a happy, contented couple is enough to drive many a depressive or dysfunctional into envy or paranoia.