You've worked, problem-solved, told jokes, discussed current events and office politics and shared some of your dreams with )) him. Now this co-worker has asked you out. On a date. Just the two of you. A real date.
If you say "yes," you could muddy the waters of what until now has been a highly satisfactory working relationship. If you say "no," you might be passing up a chance for a romantic, intimate, maybe even happily-ever-after relationship with a man to whom you're already (now that you think about it) attracted.
Your decision about whether or not to accept this invitation would have been simpler just a few years ago: Smart people never mixed business and pleasure.
But women no longer go to college to get their Mrs. degrees. And only complete fools of either sex are still trying to meet Mr. or Ms. Right in singles bars. Today a lot of smart men and women are dating -- and marrying -- people they meet at work.
If you do accept this co-worker's invitation, you'll probably (though not certainly) be on safer ground in terms of your company's rules and your reputation than you might have been just five years ago.
You'll certainly know more about him than most people know before a first date -- an additional bonus. If you're like most of us, you spend more of your waking hours at work -- and with this person -- than anywhere else.
You've seen him when he wasn't at his best. When he was frustrated or disappointed. When he was tired and overworked. When there was a crisis. When he had the flu.
And people usually are all of a piece, not decent and trustworthy in one setting and sleazy and untrustworthy in another. The information you probably have already gathered about him is bound to be valuable.
Does he lie to clients, customers, co-workers or the boss when it's convenient? Chances are he'll lie to you one day. Is he willing to cheat on his current wife or girlfriend in order to be with you? He may cheat on you to be with someone else one day.
Does he cheat the company, as well, in small, sleazy ways -- cheat on his expense account, steal office supplies? Chances are he's sleazy or a tightwad in his dating life, too.
Does he gossip to you about other people? He may gossip about you one day. Does everyone in the office know more than they should about his last girlfriend's sexual proclivities? They may know more than they should about yours, as well.
Is he ruthless and back-stabbing? He's likely to behave this way in a personal relationship -- eventually. Is he abusive or vindictive when he's frustrated or disappointed? He's likely to be abusive or vindictive if you make him angry.
How does he treat his secretary, the company's receptionist, other females with whom he works? If he's rude or condescending or patronizing, watch out. Also watch out if he has no women friends in his life. He might not like women at all.
Does he still sound bitter and vindictive when he talks about his last relationship? And the one before that? Beware! It's hard enough to work with someone after ending an intimate relationship with him when both parties are mature and able to stand some rejection.
If this person is reliable and discreet at work, on the other hand, chances are he's reliable and discreet in his dating relationships. If he's usually respectful and considerate toward other people, male and female, he's likely to be respectful and considerate to people in his personal life.
And if at work he's loyal, trustworthy, honest, even-tempered and a good listener, go for it -- and him. He's probably loyal, trustworthy, honest, even-tempered and a good listener in his personal life -- a good date by anyone's standards.
Questions and comments for Niki Scott should be addressed Working Woman, Features Department, The Sun, Baltimore 21278.