Not to be a mood killer, but no matter how promising your new relationship seems in the moment, more likely than not it won't work out. More than 60% of all new couples broke up within the first year, according to Rosenfeld. Given these odds, the best way to avoid the ugliness of an office break-up may be to talk about the possibility while you're still in the blissfully nascent (albeit ignorant) stages of courtship.
Mainiero interviewed 100 female business executives about office romance and found that the women who viewed their break-ups most positively were those who had already discussed the worst-case scenario on the first date. That's right: the first date. If you attempt to do triage once things have already fallen apart and emotions enter the picture, you're too late. And since your ex-girlfriend doesn't become your ex-colleague, you want her to be happy, or at least not blubbering in the bathroom. "It may sound odd," says Mainiero, "but it's a good idea to set up strategies."
For Grant and Amanda, the romance seemed to go wrong even before it had the chance to go right. She wanted to remain friends. He wanted all or nothing. Under normal circumstances, a guy might be persistent. But in the office, persistence can translate into creepiness, which can translate into a call from HR. In short: grin and bear it. As awkward as it was, that's just what Grant did. "I was so furious," he says. "There was a period of silent treatment."
In a way, Grant and Amanda were lucky. Around the same time their relationship was failing, another office couple showed them exactly how not to act. The couple was constantly breaking up and getting back together, mad at each other one moment and madly in love the next.
"Their relationship was ridiculous," recalls Grant. "It became a serious problem." But that's the thing: once you've wandered into relationship drama at work, there's no telling what might trigger the next blow-up. Level-headed as you think you are, try being polite to the person who, hours earlier, called you a selfish bastard.