We’ve all heard the best way to meet someone is through friends, however what do you do when instead of meeting and being interested in the friend of a workplace friend, but rather the workplace friend is the friend you are interested in becoming friendly with? Confused? Truthfully workplace romances can be confusing and complicated – they are not always just between the two in love.
Workplace romances are, quite frankly, uncomfortable situations for employers. Naturally they do not want to intrude into the personal lives of employees, however if these situations are not addressed timely and appropriately, the consequences of such inattention can be costly to the company.
There is typically no need for the employer to become involved when co-workers are in a relationship, but that changes when the couple, share their affection publicly, spend excessive amounts of time together during work hours and/or when their co-workers feel uncomfortable. If a workplace relationship develops between a supervisor and a subordinate, the employer must step in.
To help minimize risk to the company, there are a few recommended strategies.
Provide Workplace Romance Training
Be proactive and train your supervisory staff on how to diplomatically address obvious romantic behaviour in the workplace. Teach them that effective communication is generally the easiest way to diffuse a situation, and show the value of engaging in a frank conversation with the couple. Express how happy you are and encourage them to carry on speaking their opinions, exhibiting the same skills, and conducting themselves in the same manner prior to the relationship.
Publicize Your Sexual Harassment Policy
Supervisors need to become aware of work and career damaging behaviours, and the appropriate disciplinary actions to take if the workplace romance deteriorates to the point where employee behaviour disrupts the workplace. If romance becomes sexual harassment, supervisors need to know what to do and take immediate action.
Ensure the company has a written harassment policy that is posted and easily accessible to employees. Make certain all employees are trained on the policy. Consider having a separate conversation with the couple to highlight the company’s attitude of zero tolerance towards any type of harassment and the consequences of such behavior on their continued employment.
Now for those of you who choose to “fall in love” at work, I’m afraid the list of guidelines to follow/suggestions/ideas etc is considerably longer than those for the employer, because sadly, as already mentioned, you also have a responsibility to conduct yourself appropriately at all times. Please consider the following:
Until you are ready to publicly announce your relationship, keep it private
Be discreet in the workplace and do not show your affection publicly
Keep the relationship offline. Do not send explicit emails as they are traceable and may be accessible to others
If working closely together, continue as normal, but remember to behave professionally at all times
Continue to work efficiently and do not compromise your work ethic
Discuss, as a couple, the potential impact of your relationship on your work. Know your company, and make a plan before the organization requests one
Overall, employers want their employees to be happy, if this comes in the form of a workplace relationship, manage it well and management will support your choice.