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An Office Romance: How Employers Should Deal With Them

According to a recent survey of 8,000 workers, four out of 10 employees have dated someone at work; 17% have done it more than once. Given the amount of time that we spend at work it’s not surprising that many people find their life partner at work. But it can create headaches for employers  – risk of favouritism; conflicts of interest and potential abuse of position.

Prohibiting workplace relationship is unrealistic, but employers would be advised to consider these top 10 tips:

  1. Check your Existing Policies and Procedures

Are you existing policies and procedures able to deal with any problems that might arise from office romances? It’s sensible to have a confidentiality policy or conflict of interest policy that requires workers to notify their employer of any change in their personal circumstances that might give rise to a conflict of interest.

  1. Encourage staff to notify management of an office romance.

This might seem awkward or over the top, but it’s important that management are aware of the relationship, so they can decide whether or not appropriate steps need to be taken. Failure to let you know might cause problems later on.

  1. Don’t Ignore it.

If the employee doesn’t report it, but it becomes known to a management that a personal relationship between staff has developed, that might impact on their work, that’s the time to act.

  1. Think about Changing the work environment

It might be sensible to consider with reporting relationships or management structures need to be changed. This should be discussed with the people affected. This may be sensible to avoid any suspicion arising of favouritism.

  1. Watch out for Favouritism

Make sure that members of staff who are engaged in relationships with colleagues are not involved in any management decisions involving partners. It’s important that such decision are seen to be made impartially.

  1. Don’t be afraid of Taking Action

Treat any complaints of favouritism seriously and take action. Make sure any allegations are properly investigated, and if necessary take disciplinary action, especially if they relate to bullying to harassment.

  1. Training for managers

Most managers lack training on how to tackle workplace romances. Managers need to know how to manage such situations, the potential risks and how to stop problems. Managers should also have regular training on how to respond to harassment complaints that arise from a previous romance.

  1. Be especially around work social events.

Christmas parties or work social events are often the source of office romances. It’s a good idea to remind staff that they are still expected to abide by company policies.

  1. What about when things go wrong.

Of course not all romances blossom. Problems might arise if an office romance or relationship ends. It can potentially impact on an employee work performance or impact on professional relationships at work. This might require thinking about moving reporting relationships.

  1. Be mindful of your obligations to maintain a safe workplace

Sexual harassment and bullying can often arise in the context of workplace romances. Employers need to have policies and procedures in place to deal with any complaints and how such complaints will be dealt with.

Office romances are a reality. Love may be in the air but it’s doesn’t have to poison the workplace. Be proactive and set expectations around conduct and enforce your policies. Taking action now will help to maintain a professional environment for all your staff.

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