Illustration by Dave van Patten

What Do I Do If I Hook Up With a Co-Worker at the Holiday Party?

The fifth in our weeklong series on how to survive the office holiday party with your reputation intact

So it begins — office holiday party season. (Even the movies say so.) To help you navigate yours, we’ve enlisted Terry Petracca, the hippest HR expert we know and the woman behind our biweekly ‘Go See HR’ column. Every day this week she’ll be answering one holiday party-specific question to ensure that your festive office gathering results in harmless fun instead of a never-ending nightmare your co-workers won’t let you live down.

What do I do if I hook up with a co-worker at the holiday party? —Kay C., Orlando
What an interesting way to phrase the question! It sounds as though you’re either: 1) planning to do so because you’ve wanted to make a move on someone for a while and you’re hoping the party atmosphere will give you the permission you’re looking for; or 2) you know you can’t hold your liquor and you’re trying to anticipate how to handle the aftermath of losing all your inhibitions.

If you’re hoping to finally get closer to someone you’ve been eyeing at work, I assume neither one of you is bringing a plus-one. Otherwise, it’s a non-starter. But if you’re both single, there probably isn’t a better event for things to talk about and people to laugh at. If you hook up afterward, you get to see if a relationship can start. If you realize you’re better off as colleagues, however, be respectful in re-establishing your boundaries as co-workers.

Admittedly, I’m making a few assumptions. First, that s/he is interested in you. It goes without saying that whatever happens needs to be consensual. Second, that this person isn’t your employee — or the employee of someone who reports to you. Those aren’t murky waters; they’re dangerous ones. So much so that if a relationship were to occur, either you or s/he needs to find another job and/or needs to report it to HR.

But if all that checks out, happily-ever-after isn’t impossible. As I’ve written before, I’ve been the recipient of wedding invitations and baby announcements over the years from many successful office romances. Most fondly, I remember how two divorced co-workers came together for a romance none of us saw coming — and ultimately got married and merged their families. So you never know where things can lead.

Don’t just complain to your coworkers about everyone else you work with — let Terry help. Email her all your office-related anxieties at terry@melindustries.com. Or, if total anonymity isn’t required, leave a question in the comments below.