Five People You Should Never Date at Work

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Let's face it: Most people who've set foot in a workplace have considered sleeping with a colleague at some point during their career. Although some who throw professional caution to the wind do ride off into the sunset with their office fairy princess or prince charming, others end up with a bruised heart, reputation -- or worse -- career.

A new Vault.com survey of more than 2,000 workers found that of those who've had an office fling or romance (59 percent, to be exact), 30 percent said it affected their personal or professional relationships with other co-workers. What's more, 18 percent said their workplace dalliance led them or their romantic partner to leave the company.

To avoid becoming one of these workplace dating casualties, I suggest you steer clear of romantic entanglements with the following five catergories of colleagues.

The Intern

Sure, they're often young, nubile and eager to please. But so much can go wrong when dating an intern, assistant or any other underling that such temptations are best left alone.

If your colleagues find out about this office romance, there could be cries of favoritism. If you overcompensate by treating your subordinate more harshly than others on your team, there could be trouble in paradise, followed by awkwardness at the office if the two of you break things off.

For "Joseph," a web developer who didn't want his real name used, a secret tryst with the department intern ended with an ironic twist. During the recession, Joseph was laid off by his employer, ostensibly because of budget cuts. But that wasn't the only blow to his ego.

"Shortly after," Joseph said, "they hired her to replace me at a cheaper salary and a slightly different job title."

The IT Guy or Gal

In this case, I'm the one who's boldly gone where many a Luddite worker has not gone before. Unfortunately, I quickly came to regret my decision to dip a toe into the IT dating pool.

Yes, nothing beats having your request for computer assistance rise to the top of the tech support queue. But fall out of favor with your technically inclined valentine and you'll have to endure the tech support call of shame any time your computer has the hiccups. At best, your tech support request will be ignored. At worst, your ex could take to reading your workplace e-mails or instant messages whenever the mood strikes.

The Boss

This one needs no explanation. Get on your manager's bad side and you may not have a job for long. Throw sex, unrequited love and/or an ugly breakup into the mix and there's no telling how far your professional reputation could plummet.

The Boss's Spouse

Sleeping with a married co-worker is never a good idea. (Don't kid yourself -- the entire office knows exactly what you and your workplace flame are up to.) But sleeping with the boss's significant other is nothing short of career suicide.

Just ask "Denise," an operating room nurse who took up with a co-worker who was married to her boss. As luck would have it, Denise and her OR paramour snuck off for a tropical vacation only to find a bunch of doctors from their hospital vacationing at the same resort.

"The group of surgeons, wives in tow, were also there for scuba diving, so we seemed to run into them at every turn," Denise said. "You cannot imagine how awkward things were when we all got back to operating room. My boss ended up divorcing [her husband] and I endured stares and whispers that practically melted the skin off my back."

The Serial Dater

Cozy up to the office philanderer and you make yourself a prime target for professional gossip and hostility. Not only can your reputation plummet overnight, your colleagues may have a hard time taking you seriously.

"Francine," who works in the media, will attest to that. Several weeks into her "second real job," she began dating an older gent in her department she initially found "sophisticated." "We had a torrid little secret thing for about three weeks, including an awkward encounter with a bartender who thought I was the guy's daughter," Francine said. Soon, Francine explained, "I found out he was the office lech and a not-so-secret alcoholic. My moral is, at least make sure you know the guy or gal's rep and character before you knock boots. I ended up making some pretty good friends at that job and I lived in fear of them finding out I had dated him."

Michelle Goodman is a freelance writer and former cubicle dweller. Her books include My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube. Follow her at @anti9to5guide.

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