When dating someone new, the common rule of thumb is to keep the relationship under the radar until you decide it’s long-term material.
This rule is especially important if you’re dating a coworker.
But how do you keep an office romance a secret?
While career experts generally advise following your company’s relationship policy, there are a few ways to successfully date a coworker on the sly, says Nicole Williams, career expert at LinkedIn and author of the book “Girl On Top.”
Williams, who at one time had a relationship with a colleague, breaks down the do’s and don’ts of having a secret office romance:
1. Do have a premature discussion about the relationship’s status.
Like all relationships, having the “where is this going?” conversation can be awkward. And when dating a coworker, you have to have it sooner than you normally would. In most relationships, Williams says this conversation comes after three or four months of dating, but when work’s involved you need to have it after four dates.
During your conversation, Williams says you should discuss the seriousness of your relationship, how you would both handle things if the relationship ended, how you’re going to treat each other at work, and if either of you would consider leaving the company, if needed.
“You really have to examine your relationship in a way that you wouldn’t naturally,” Williams tells Business Insider. “It’s not the best feeling, but when it affects your performance or your coworkers’ performances, you need to have the conversation.”
2. Do hang out with other colleagues at work.
Williams says it’s inevitable that you’re going to give clues about your relationship if you only hang out with one another. Avoid this by never meeting in an office with the door closed, and make sure to sit and mingle with other people at events. “It’s not about you; it’s about other people feeling uncomfortable,” says Williams. “Make sure you’re not constantly giving each other the googly eyes.” Furthermore, under no circumstances are public displays of affection acceptable in the workplace.
3. Don’t have the same schedule.
This means do not plan on long vacations together because people will start to notice if you’re both away on the same days and come back with the same glow. You should also try not to arrive or leave the office at the same time or people may start to have suspicions about the closeness of your relationship.
4. Do plan for last-minute get-togethers.
Since you work together, the chances of you hanging out after work are pretty good, says Williams. So as not to draw attention or questions, have a change of clothes stashed somewhere, especially if there’s a chance you may be staying over at your coworker’s place. You could keep clothes at one another’s house or in your drawer at work. Williams says this is more important if you’re a woman, since people often pay closer attention to the clothes they wear.
5. Don’t complain about your love interest to colleagues.
Just don’t — even if you’re complaining about them in a professional context. Williams says that once you get involved with someone who you work with, it can become confusing as to whether you’re really complaining about a personal or professional problem. The lines are blurry, so it’s best to keep quiet about your love interest while at work. You don’t want to hurt his or her reputation.
6. Do reveal your relationship to others when it’s time.
If you decide that your relationship has long-term potential, you need to reveal it to your colleagues. “Once you hit the eight-date rule, you’re too far in [the relationship] to not report it,” warns Williams. “Always disclose your relationship because people tend to undermine you professionally if you don’t.” The only exception to disclosing the romance is if you work in a company big enough that you would never run into one another, and the company does not require it.
7. Do always tell the truth.
If someone directly asks you about the relationship, you should always be honest, advises Williams. Your secret is probably already out, and will come out eventually, and you don’t want people to distrust you because you lied about it. When you do reveal your relationship either to your boss or colleagues, you don’t need to ask for permission. You just need to tell others about the current situation.
Originally published on Business Insider