Workplace Romances: The Best Defense is a Good Offense

June 24, 2014

According to CareerBuilder’s annual office romance survey, 39 percent of workers have dated a co-worker at least once over the course of their careers. Thirty percent of those romances even led to marriage. No matter the type of romantic activity, workplace romances can be a problem for employers.

Some of the issues facing a business owner who employs a dating couple can include:

  • Inappropriate displays of affection
  • Claims from co-workers that one person receives preferential treatment because he or she is in a relationship with a superior
  • Reduced productivity because the dating couple is more focused on their relationship rather than work
  • Conflict at work between the two people if the relationship ends
  • Claims of sexual harassment if the relationship ends

Workplace attractions and subsequent relationships are going to happen; it’s human nature. Rather than forbidding workplace romances altogether – which likely won’t prevent them from happening anyway – employers should embrace the social needs of their employees while setting the boundaries for what is and is not acceptable. A well-defined, publicized policy regarding workplace romances should be part of every employer’s people-management strategy.

An effective workplace romance policy should include the following key elements:

  • Disclosure requirement (without fear of punishment)
  • Use of “love contracts” establishing that both parties agree the relationship is consensual
  • Advisement against public displays of affection and guidelines for appropriate conduct
  • Avenues for co-workers to voice concerns about known relationships
  • Stricter guidelines for supervisor-subordinate relationships
  • Training for managers on how to discreetly coach dating couples and extinguish gossip

All businesses need to manage their most valuable asset, their employees. Policies and procedures help business owners navigate the “people” issues that will arise. We recommend you take proactive steps to determine how you will handle these situations before they occur. To begin putting policies into place at your business, contact any member of Schenck's Human Resources Consulting team by calling 800-236-2246.