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Hooking Up With a Coworker: Collateral Damage

11 Dec

For seven years I considered work to be my very own personal dating pool.  I swam laps in it, soaked in its warm waters, and nearly drowned a few times.

I was 23 years old when I started working in Corporate America.  On my first day of work, I was elated to discover that there were more than a handful of handsome bachelors parading up and down the hallways just waiting to leave their mark.  I had been warned, on more than one occasion, that it’s a bad idea to dip one’s pen in the company well.  “Who cares?” I thought to myself, “there are just too many options here, and I can’t pass them up.”

There were good relationships, there were traumatic ones, hot hook-ups, and there were even PG-13 encounters in the 3rd floor copy room.  While I have many fond memories of my escapades in copy rooms, training closets, and locked offices, there came a point when the consequences were too hard to deal with.  I’m not referring to the chance of getting caught with my skirt up around my waist, and bent over a table in a meeting room – only to get fired and end up welcoming you to Applebee’s and taking your drink order.  Oh no, it’s something far worse than that.

Have you ever had a friend who has just broken up with someone, and you can literally see the life drain out of them? They look pale. Their clothes are wrinkled, their hair is unkempt and unwashed. They lose the spring in their step. It’s a sad thing to watch. As much as you want to comfort them, there’s little you can do. Instead, you just have to endure their depressing shuffling and let them go through their mourning hoping that they’re able to heal quickly.

Now imagine that instead of that being your friend, it’s you.

It is 10 times harder to mend your broken heart when you’re busy airing your dirty laundry for every single person in Corporate America to see. When you break up with a coworker, every single person you work with knows that you’re a hot mess because you got dumped by Sal the Salesman who is now giving it to his hot new secretary. Oh wait, excuse me, I meant Executive Assistant. Yeah, I know. Pathetic.

After my second break up with Mr. Big X, I swore to myself that I would never date (or mess around) with another coworker again. I put my foot down and said, “no more.” The thought of having to pass each other in the hallways, end up in the same meeting, or see each other in the deli counter line in the cafeteria was too difficult to bear. Lucky for me, Mr. Big X was transferred to another state. Still, there was that slim chance that he and I would end up working on the same project. Then I’d have to hear his voice on a conference call-and that might lead me to remember how he used to call me every night when he was visiting his folks, and how we had planned to spend the next holiday with them, and blah, blah, snore. There was too much collateral damage.

I’ve kept true to my word-I haven’t touched a single coworker since. Ex employees, on the other hand, are a totally different story…