It’s not unusual for love to blossom in the workplace. It’s no surprise, either, given that we spend the best part of our lives at work. But not all office romances end happily ever after – and even the ones that do work out can have significant impacts on other employees and the business itself. It’s essential that you take steps to minimise these impacts.
Previously in this blog series on office romance, we discussed the four types of personal relationships and their impacts on business – from staff disengagement and low productivity to a toxic culture conducive to fraud and sexual harassment claims.
So, how can you prevent and minimise the negative effects of workplace romance?
Don’t bury your head in the sand
Employers need to accept the reality that office romance can have critical consequences. Businesses cannot afford to turn a blind eye to it or simply hope for the best. Take the time to consider how your business could be affected by personal relationships. Perhaps it’s already being impacted but you haven’t been aware.
Develop a workplace romance policy
A personal relationships policy can protect your business and your employees. The policy must outline management’s expectations regarding workplace relationships, and clearly define what is and isn’t acceptable workplace behaviour.
More and more businesses – especially corporations and financial institutions – are moving to ban personal relationships in the workplace. If one does arise, usually one of the parties must transfer or leave. While banning office romance may be difficult to enforce – and arguably unfair – a workplace romance policy developed in consultation with your legal counsel and HR consultant will help ensure professional conduct is maintained not only between staff but between management and staff.
The policy should include:
- General expectations of professional conduct from all staff.
- Whether certain relationships are prohibited, eg. between a supervisor and subordinate.
- Disclosure of obligations for couples.
- The potential consequences for violating the policy.
- A complaints procedure.
- System for investigation and corrective action.
Your personal relationships policy should be distributed to all staff, and be included in the onboarding process for new employees.
It’s also critical that all levels of staff are educated about what constitutes sexual harassment. Ensure they fully understand what is and is not appropriate behaviour in the workplace, and make it clear that management expects employees to treat each other with respect at all times. This will help protect employee safety, as well as the business from costly claims.
What can employees do?
Employees must also take responsibility. It’s important they weigh the pros and cons before entering a romantic relationship with a colleague and consider whether it’s prudent to tell their supervisor or management of the situation.
Some questions for employees to consider include:
- What happens if one of us is promoted?
- Could I accept orders from my partner?
- Will it affect my opportunities for a promotion?
- What happens if I want to end the relationship?
- How will it affect my relationships with fellow workers?
- What will we talk about at home if we move in together?
- Am I prepared to leave my job to maintain the relationship?
Remember, taking the time now to work out a workplace relationships policy for your business means you will you will be ready when problems arise. It will help protect your business against the potential consequences, as well as the safety your employees. If you need help navigating this tricky area, please contact me at email@example.com.