Personal Relationships at work

A few months ago, at a client meeting I noticed that in an office re-organisation a prime office had been allocated to someone below senior level.  I recently found out why. The general manager and the person were “an item”.

I had a similar experience in my first paid summer job, working in a hotel, that resulted in “going on strike”.  The cause was the chefs and their girl-friends (who worked in the hotel) getting cordon bleu food for lunch, while the rest of us mere mortals got reheated breakfast leftovers. The hotel manager quickly sorted out the problem but it still left a bad taste!

Lawyers will tell employers to be careful about workplace relationships because of the risk of sexual harassment complaints and the increasing sums awarded when claims are proven.  Many recent high-profile cases at Seven West, David Jones etc. bear this out.

There are more compelling reasons for employers and employees to manage personal relationships in the workplace.

From the employer’s side there can be loss of productivity, alienation of other staff, and disruption to work when the relationship experiences problems or if it ends acrimoniously.  Holiday times can be an issue particularly in businesses with small staff numbers.  Some employers may ban personal relationships where the potential for loss through fraud or malpractice is high.

The employees involved need to consider how their relationship will:

  • Impact their interaction with their co-workers
  • influence their promotion prospects
  • Be affected by work issues
  • One person may want to discuss work issues or personalities at home and the other may hate that
  • Can they cope with one of them giving instructions to the other at work?
  • How will it affect the relationship if one is promoted?

Working with SME owners I have never heard that “the best thing that ever happened to my relationship was bringing my partner into the business”. The same may be true for relationships that start at work – they seem like a great idea at the time when they start out with excitement, passion and joy.  However, the normal challenges that arise is a relationship can be amplified by the work relationship.

If you find the love of your life at work explore how one of you can leave so you give your relationship the best opportunity – I did.

PS There are exceptions to every rule. I have seen happy long-term relations in some workplaces. If you and your partner are one of those well done!


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