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Hey There, Awkward

It’s no news to anyone that Capitol Hill’s close quarters and young staffers produce some intraoffice dating scenarios. It’s only newsworthy when the congressman’s involved, but what happens when it’s just two lonely legislative assistants, quietly getting together after hours? Hill Navigator has some advice for everyone involved — bystanders included.

Q. I recently saw two of my coworkers out at a restaurant … and they were very close, like obviously on a date! They pretended not to see me but I don’t know what to say, if anything. It’s a very awkward position to be in! What do you think? Thank you!

A. Good news. Hill Navigator has a foolproof answer for you. Don’t say anything.  

Every office has its secrets, but unless it’s the congressman or senator canoodling with a staffer, most intraoffice relationships should be left alone. Hill Navigator doesn’t endorse or condone intraoffice dating, but it’s a Capitol Hill fact of life that most of us will bump into at some point.  

So here are some rules of thumb to go by.  

If you’re the bystander: Don’t say anything. If the lovebirds want to confront you, be amiable. Don’t ask for details or give promises of secrecy. Rather, give them the assurance that you will continue treating them as professional colleagues, which means whatever (legal, ethical) activities they do on their own time is their own business.  

If you’re the boss:  Unless it’s a relationship that has one direct report cavorting with another, also leave it alone. If you feel it warrants a conversation, then have it with each staffer individually. Frame it only in the context of how it relates to their professional duties. Keep in mind that the more attention you pay to their relationship, the more others will too.  

If you’re the clandestine lovebirds: Start looking for a new job. You can get away with dating someone in your office for a time, but your long-term professional success is better with your significant other in a different work environment. Check your office handbook. There may be rules that govern such things, though they likely vary by office. If you feel a more serious conflict of interest coming on, there are employee service centers in the House and Senate that can help. Just don’t pat yourself on the back for keeping things under wraps so well. Chances are, all of your co-workers already know.

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