Romance on the job is nothing new. In fact, surveys show that nearly HALF of us have dated a coworker at some point and four out of 10 married people say they met their spouse on the job! However, there’s a serious new twist in office romances that could land both of you in hot water: Instant Messages.

Stephanie Losee and Helaine Olin cowrote the book: Office Mate: The Employee Handbook For Managing Romance On The Job and they say that a lot of coworkers communicate through IM these days. The technology works so fast that relationships which used to take weeks to blossom, now happen in days! So here’s what you need to know before planning your next big dinner date via Instant Messages:

  • ALL of your office IMs may be monitored! In the book, they mention one coworker couple that was caught chatting on the clock. The boss called them into his office, and displayed page after page of transcripts from their entire online relationship! That’s not only embarrassing, in many case, it’s grounds for termination!
  • IM chats are a distraction to OTHER coworkers. You may think your chat is top secret, but every time you giggle and type, or your IM message “dings”, you tip off the people around you that something fishy’s going on. So not only are YOU being unproductive, chances are your coworkers are having trouble focusing on their work too.
  • One final warning about workplace Instant Message relationships: They can end as suddenly as they begin! It sounds impersonal, but breakups via IM or text message are very common these days and some coworkers don’t even get the courtesy of a breakup note. Their office buddy simply stops responding to messages and ignores them! If you must break up with someone you work with, experts say the best day to do it is on Friday or Saturday. That way you each have at least 24-hours to get over it before you see each other on the job again.

Bottom line: If you have serious feelings about a coworker, keep them offline! Even better: share them in person – AWAY from the office. After all, shouldn’t you be working at work anyway?