Last year our blog introduced a two part series to discuss how to handle the drama that can come along with workplace romances.
What polices do you have in place in your organization?
Do you allow the romances?
Do you not?
Do you even acknowledge them, etc?
Being that it’s Valentine’s Day and with all of this romance flowing freely through the air, we thought it’d be fun and helpful to revisit this topic for our loyal community of business professionals.
Maybe you’re wondering what to do about those budding interoffice romances in your workplace?
Since there are A LOT more of you reading the Integrity HR Human Resources Blog now than at this time last year, I would recommend visiting the aforementioned articles if you have not yet established an Interoffice Romance Policy in your employee handbook.
You can find both of those by clicking on the last link in the previous paragraph.
The Dark Confessions of a Human Resources Professional
Before I proceed any further on the subject, I feel that I have a confession to make — I met my husband at work. It’s with a very cheeky pride that, when asked where I met my husband, I reply that I got him at Sears (lifetime guarantee, right?).
I have no idea if they had an interoffice romance policy on dating in the workplace, though I’m sure a corporate entity such as Sears did, this particular unit was a lot of college kids working their way through school.
That’s not exactly a group that HR is going to pin down for “love contracts”. (Of course, maybe they were — I was eighteen at the time — Human Resources… what?)
My point is that workplace romances can work – IF the employees involved are responsible and respectful of their workplaces and IF the workplaces communicate their expectations.
How Can an Interoffice Romance be Successful?
Let me tell you from experience —
1.) They Can’t be Between a Supervisor and an Employee
Both of us were low on the totem pole – no worries there. This one hardly needs explaining any further. There is just no way this can end well.
2.) Distance is Good
While each company can determine their own preference when establishing an interoffice romance policy, it’s best if those involved are not in the same department. One individual in the relationship can be transferred to another department if a relationship is established.
Otherwise, the relationship can be a distraction to everyone in the workplace. (I was up front on the phones, he was in shipping and receiving – we crossed paths just often enough to flirt our way to shared break times.)
3.) Management Needs to Acknowledge the Relationship
Even if HR does not call the employees into the office to sign a “love contract”, supervisors should at a minimum speak with the employees to acknowledge that they are aware that a dating relationship exists.
By acknowledging the relationship, managers are telling their employees that “we know… that you know… that we know” – in other words, we’re watching you, so behave yourselves. (Our supervisor was aware from the beginning. In fact, I’ve often wondered if she didn’t hire me in order to set me up with him – she was kind of like that. If so, thank you wherever you are, Miss Flora.)
4.) Discretion is the Better Part of Valor
While the employees’ manager should be aware of the relationship, anyone else who knows should depend upon the employees, who hopefully are choosing their confidantes wisely.
There should be no kissing and telling, and absolutely no kissing and showing. All work rules and policies still apply. (We were apparently too discreet. The new guy talked to my future husband about asking me out –it didn’t go very well for him.)
5.) Maintain Individuality
This is advice for the employees in the relationships, as well as for the managers.
All too often employees involved in long term workplace relationships begin to lose their individual identity in the workplace. They simply become “JimandPam”, as if they are truly one.
The trouble is, if one gets in trouble with the boss, both might be viewed in the negative. If one gets a great raise, the other one might not, because it’s all the same money anyway, right?
Management needs to be aware of this bias so that they do not find themselves fighting a discrimination battle they didn’t see coming.
The fact is that if people don’t meet a significant other while in school, there is a high likelihood that they will meet them at work. We just spend so much of our daily lives in the workplace that it’s not realistic to expect otherwise.
So, with a little foresight, a little planning, a lot of respect, and a lot of communication, workplace relationships need not be a deterrent to the workplace. Rather, allowing them may be the best bonus you could ever give your employee.
It was certainly the best one I’ve ever had.
Written by Paula Agee, SPHR – HR Services Manager – Outsourcing
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While you can’t fight nature, you also have to keep your workplace productive.
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