Work is where we spend our days, explore ourselves and build our networks. So why would dating be excluded? That said, deciding whether to date a co-worker is extremely personal. There are no right answers. There may, however, be a company policy.
Legislation doesn't regulate matters of the heart, but you definitely want to understand the potential implications of a relationship with a co-worker. Find out how your organization views at-work relationships, and start your decision making process from there. The following strategy can help you sort through both the emotions and the day-to-day realities of dating at work.
Know your intentions. No shame here, but the parameters of the relationship and the level of risk are directly proportional to your purpose. Are you having a one-nighter with the company CEO to leverage a promotion? (High risk.) Are you wildly infatuated with the boss you barely know? (Medium risk.) Or have you developed a mutually supportive relationship with a co-worker you've come to trust and respect? (Low risk.)
'Fess up. If you think you can hide your affair from your co-workers, think again. I've worked with more than a few "undeclared" couples who thought they had the office duped. Note: Do not leave for vacation at exactly the same time, both return with a tan and outright refuse to know anything about each other's whereabouts. Attempts to keep the relationship a secret usually fail and invite interest, speculation and gossip.
Tell your boss first. This might sound a little goodie-two-shoes, but my suggestion is to share your relationship with your boss first. Not in an, "I'd like your permission" or parental kind of way, but rather in a "We've thought about this relationship responsibly and care about your business and our careers" kind of way. Inevitably your boss will find out anyway, and you want her to be confident that you'll behave in a professional, ethical and responsible manner. Your boss can even be an ally to help create personal and professional boundaries.
Nix the public displays of affection (PDA). Blatant and indiscreet PDA is difficult to stomach at the best of times, and it certainly doesn't belong at work. No one wants to watch you make out in the office corridor.
Think before you share. If you've decided to date a colleague, your days of coming into work to gossip about last night's Tantric sex session or wicked fight are over. Your new lover is someone else's co-worker or boss. Create some ground rules as a couple about sharing personal information with your professional peers and don't let your relationship play out over the office email. Your on-site tech support might be enjoying your new boyfriend's racy messages as much as you are.