Managing a business is tough enough these days – you’re asked to be a teacher, mentor, role model and task master. And that’s when your employees aren’t asking you to be their social secretary, financial advisor or health and wellness coach. When you have to step in and manage someone’s love life, that’s when it’s gone too far!
The workplace has become an increasingly popular place for people to find romance, and a 2011 study by Career Builder.com claims that 38% of workers say they’ve dated a colleague. A Harris Interactive survey reported that 63% of employees who are dating colleagues felt it was okay to go public with that information.
Compare that with a SHRM study that found that 72% of companies don’t have a written policy on how to handle office romances and that only 12% of the surveyed organizations provide any type of training to managers and supervisors about how to handle them if they do crop up.
Keep these key points in mind, especially if you work in one of the organizations that don’t have a written policy:
- There can be real liability if workplace romances aren’t managed – from sexual harassment, retaliation, or hostile work environment claims on down to distracting behaviors, morale issues and lost productivity.
- Relationships between peers or between members of different departments may not be disruptive, but at no time should the company fail to address a romantic relationship between an employee and their supervisor (or anyone else who has influence over their career path).
- Employees may have more tolerance for singles who have indiscretions than for colleagues in adulterous affairs.
- There really is such a thing as too much personal information in the workplace.
You probably don’t need to rush out and create a workplace romance policy, but you should be sure your sexual harassment policy is in place and that all managers and supervisors know how to manage to it. Managers should also be sure to keep their eyes and ears open because office gossipers love to weigh in on this topic. Even appropriate consenting relationships can be disruptive if people believe the dating employees are spending too much time away from their desks, being given special consideration or being too public with their displays of affection.
Good managers can offer coaching to their romantically inclined employees.
- Ensure they comply with any specific company policies.
- Ask them to be discreet and sensitive to the feelings of others.
- Require professional behavior at all times – no public displays of affection in the hallways.
- Consider how things should be resolved if the relationship sours or ends unfavorably.
We’ve had dating in our office over the years and those who were more discreet about their relationships had fewer repercussions. It’s nice to see the Valentine’s Day flowers or other signs that someone is enjoying a romantic relationship, but good managers don’t want to let things go beyond the bounds of appropriate conduct.
In the spirit of amore this Valentine’s Day work week, “Love is a feeling, marriage is a contract and relationships are work.” – Lori Gordon. So Enjoy your relationships but focus on your work too! Share your stories or feelings about workplace romance with us with hash tag #loveatwork on Twitter @BetterManagers.
By, Nancy Lane, Human Resource Manager at Red Book Solutions and B2A, LLC – 30 years of experience in education, medical imaging, oil & gas and business services.