Romantic Relationships at Work

Personal workplace relationships are common, given the amount of time that colleagues spend together while at work. In most cases it will not present a problem however it is advisable to acknowledge how workplace romances can sometimes affect employees and their performance.

You may notice problems with the following for example:

Decision making – there may be a tendency for them to put each other’s needs before the company’s, complicating the way decisions are made.

Distraction – there may be a tendency for them to stop and chat with each other multiple times a day or take long lunches together. These interruptions are distracting and can be detrimental to productivity.

Gossip – people love to talk about their colleagues and romance is prime gossip for the rumour mill. Also, private company information may be divulged between the couple


What can organisations do to make sure employees are familiar with the Company’s stance on workplace relationships?

The best thing to do is to be prepared and keep the channels of communication open, so that employees and managers are all on the same page. A few ways to address this may be:

Provide Training
Consider offering training to managers that focus on how to address romantic relationships between their employees. The key here is to make sure managers feel comfortable knowing how to discreetly manage employees who may be affected by a workplace relationship. For example, managers might have concerns in terms of their colleague’s behaviour or productivity or they may have to deal with gossip or backlash from other employees. The better prepared managers are, the better they will handle the situation when it presents itself.

Develop a workplace relationship policy
If your organisation doesn’t already have one, think about introducing a Personal Relationships at Work policy. Again the best way to ensure that office romances don’t interfere with company operations is to keep employees informed.

These policies should strike a balance between employees’ right to a private life and the employer’s right to protect its business interests.

The policy should express that whilst the company does not wish to interfere with personal relationships, it is necessary for the organisation to ensure that all employees behave in an appropriate and professional manner at work which applies to all employees regardless of their job or level of seniority.

The policy may include guidelines regarding:

Conduct, stressing that employees must not allow a personal relationship with a colleague influence their conduct

Declaring the relationship, setting out a requirement to disclose to the organisation any personal relationship that may give rise to a conflict of interest

Possible transfer of one or both employees after consultation if one has managerial authority over the other

Being careful with emails, making employees aware that the company can access emails and to be professional when communicating with their partner at work

Employers should not seek to prevent or deter personal relationships at work (except in exceptional circumstances) nor should they look to implement rules restricting personal relationships without first determining the purpose of any rules. A policy should have a clear aim and not be excessively restrictive.

Address sexual harassment
Sadly there can also be a thin line between a work romance and possible sexual harassment. An employee behaving in a way that is inappropriate or unwanted should not be accepted. Every employee should be well versed on the company’s sexual harassment policy and know exactly how the company handles such claims.

Encourage open communication
Make sure employees know the company’s policy on relationships and be ready to guide them so that they are aware of how to conduct themselves at work in a professional manner whilst maintaining a personal relationship with a colleague.

Interpersonal relationships between your employees will inevitably develop. Being aware of what types of relationships are developing and the potential problems that may occur with a work romance helps organisations deal with any possible fallouts.
 

If you would like advice regarding training on how to manage personal relationships at work or wish to implement a policy please email us at
abby.corfield@peoplebusiness.co.uk or call us on 01932 874 944