You went ahead and dipped your pen in the company ink or you dipped the company pen in your ink, one of the two. In other words, you boned someone who you are expected to be professional around. In the adult world, this is “frowned upon” which is an HR bullshit way of saying it isn’t allowed, but without using words that sound harsh. The morning after, you’ll both sit there in the realization that you’re probably breaking a few company policies and most of the unwritten codes of ethics. Handling the aftermath is much like defusing a ticking time bomb: do it right and you’ll be home free, do it wrong and it will blow up in your face so spectacularly that they’ll need a spatula to scrape you off the wall and into your new storage jar of shame.
Get Your Bearings
The first step is to figure out what your semi-professional tryst means for your relationship with your coworker. Was this a one-night fling? Is this person looking for something more than you mounting him or her on the copy machine after hours? These are the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself–and your coworker. Otherwise, you risk trudging back into work on Monday with uncertainty, and uncertainty is a killer in office romance. What you don’t know can get you called to HR for terribly ineffective emotional role-plays, and not the good kind involving sexy lingerie and handcuffs.
Build A Cover Story
The second step, once you know where you stand, is creating a cover story if you’re not going LinkedIn official with your officemate. If people know you were spending time together, make it sound like the night ended at 9 p.m. instead of 2 a.m. Avoid letting anyone know either of you has seen the other’s house or apartment, and for the love of God, keep flirting back and forth to a minimum around the coworker who can’t keep her mouth shut to save her own life. Word of your office affair will spread like wildfire.
Should your cover be blown and questions get asked, deny. Much like our beloved Fifth Amendment protects you from criminal self-incrimination, you can choose to not self-incriminate when it comes to office romance. Deflect, dodge, and generally diffuse any kind of suspicion. You must be the James Bond to their Dr. No. Nothing, short of physical torture or a terrible cubicle playlist, should draw the information out of you. If you can dodge prying questions from a coworker, you can dodge anything. Assume that your partner is keeping things quiet on his or her end and make an effort not to be seen together too often. That brings out the bloodhound-like gossip hunting tendencies in some coworkers, and it will cause them to shadow you more effectively than your own actual shadow could ever hope to.
Hammer Out A Solution
With a cover in place, consistent denial achieved, and a solid understanding of what your relationship entails, it is time to resume your office hookup with reckless abandon, should that be something you’re both interested in. If you’re feeling bold, move your “activities” to various places around the office. Bathroom, breakroom, your office rival’s desk–the professional world is your oyster. Just be careful to avoid security cameras, janitorial staff, and your boss staying late to get some work done. You do not want to have to explain what’s going on with you and one of your coworkers while actively being inside that person. It tends to lead to some really awkward exchanges over the next few days.
Should you be exposed to your peers, come clean with them and try to find a way to get your absurdly conservative boss to hate you as little as possible. These situations should be treated as if you are on trial, especially if the person you are doing your after hours meetings with is somehow related to someone higher up in the company. If you survive your weekend of terrible workplace relationship choices to fight another day, then you’ve done everything you needed to do. Next time you pick a hookup, try not to choose one who gets a paycheck from the same office as you. The last thing you need is multiple, complicated, workplace romances.