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Hiding an office romance — an ethical issue

Q. The junior staffer whom I directly supervise told me she is dating another coworker. She told me this in confidence on a Friday evening when we went out for a few drinks. The coworker she is dating is a mid-level manager like me. I consider them both my friends as well. She told me not to tell our department head and not to tell the coworker she is dating that I know. The coworker and I work together on many projects. In hindsight, I can see where their romance has impacted a few tasks in the past months. I am concerned our team performance will be negatively impacted. I do not want my job or title or reputation to be on the line because I knew about their relationship.

I am not sure if I should confide in my manager, confront the junior staffer saying to keep her relationship outside of work, or not say anything at all. Any advice would be helpful.

J. F., Boston, MA

A. By confiding in you, the junior staffer has put you in a position where your silence has the potential to boomerang on you. You need to act. First step, talk to the junior staffer and explain that her revelation has put you in an ethical bind and that she and your coworker need to own up to the relationship. Let her know that you are concerned both because teamwork may be negatively impacted and because if (or more likely “when”) the cat is out of the bag, you may be implicated in hiding the information.

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While I am not opposed to office romances, I am opposed to keeping those romances secret. While it’s expected that the couple maintain a strictly professional demeanor at work, it’s only fair that coworkers and managers be aware that there might be a relationship factor in play. If the company has a policy regarding office romances, the couple will need to be prepared to abide by it.

Q. When listing my contact information on a business card or email, I am not sure of how to list my phone number: cell or mobile, land or home, primary or secondary?

A. H., Virginia Beach, VA

A. On your business card just list the numbers that business associates need to know: your office number(s) preceded by “work” or “(w)” or “w” (or “office,” “(o),” or “o”) and your fax number preceded by “fax,” “(f),” or “f.” Only list your cell number if you want your business contacts calling it: “cell,” “(c),” or “c.” Don’t list your home number unless it is also your business number.


More from this blog on: Etiquette at Work , Office Issues