After firing CEO Dov Charney last month, American Apparel decided to update its company code of ethics with stricter guidelines regarding interoffice relationships.
According to the new policy, “No management-level employee may make sexual advances, welcome or unwelcome, toward any subordinate.” Considering Charney’s time with the company was riddled with allegations of sexual harassment, it’s no surprise that the company wants to take a more conservative approach to fraternization.
But here’s the thing: Whether or not there are policies forbidding them, office relationships happen.
A stunning 20% of people who told Career Builder that they had dated someone at the office admitted that at least one person in the relationship was married.Perhaps that makes sense given the amount of time we spend at work: In an office relationship, you can relate to the struggles someone faces from 9 to 5, says Brownlee.That’s not easy to do with a spouse or partner who works in a different field.But getting involved with someone who’s married can end up damaging your personal reputation as well as your professional one—if people find out, you could lose integrity—not to mention the pain it could inflict on loved ones (yours or your partner’s).For those of you considering an office relationship with a married coworker, here’s some sage advice: Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.Know Your Company’s Policy Before the First Date Some companies have very strict rules about relationships, and you should understand those boundaries—and the possible consequences of crossing them.“Of course we know those policies aren’t always adhered to,” says Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of etiquetteexpert.com, “but it certainly should be considered, especially if there’s a policy that says, ‘We won’t hire married couples.'” In other words, assuming you think this relationship could get serious enough to get to the altar, you could end up having to choose between your lover and your livelihood. Of people surveyed by Workplace Options, 57% said they’d opt to protect their career, but 43% said they would lean towards leaving their jobs.Does your company strictly prohibit relationships of any kind?Before deciding that you’d be willing to pack up your desk in some grand romantic gesture, Brownlee advises that you consider your skill set, resume and future goals.“It might be smarter for your career development to consider smaller changes instead of radical shifts,” she says.Maybe there’s an opportunity to switch to a different team or project, or to get some needed experience in a different department.