11th September 2013
We spend most of our waking lives in the workplace, meaning that we must develop close relationships with our colleagues. This can be perceived as a positive thing as organisational success is often built by these strong working partnerships and the team ethic that they promote. However, it is not unusual for these relationships to develop beyond being purely professional and workplace romances are commonplace.
Bill Gates, Barack Obama and Julia Roberts all met their spouses in the workplace but before you pop Barry White’s Greatest Hits in the office CD player there are a number of factors to consider. A 2012 survey reported that 84 percent of respondents believed workplace romances to have a negative effect on productivity.
Furthermore, a relationship gone sour can prove costly for an employer. The report claimed that responding companies had lost £65,000 on average dealing with the fallout from failed office romances with some having to tackle cases of sexual discrimination and even unfair dismissal as a result.
So, what can we do to minimise the damage a wayward arrow from Cupid’s bow can have on our workforce?
Avoid contractual restrictions – They rarely work. Preventing workplace romance is virtually impossible and writing terms into an employee’s contract could result in a valued employee being shown the door for falling in love.
Promote professionalism – The best way to manage relationships in the workplace beyond those forged on a professional level is to make it abundantly clear the level of conduct expected of the employees in question. They should be encouraged to keep their professional and personal lives separate and be made aware of the ramifications should their relationship start to have a negative effect on their work or those around them.
Prepare for the worst – Employers should ensure that they have the relevant procedures in place to deal with workplace romances that end badly. Well written policies for harassment and bullying in the workplace will ensure that any issues are dealt with swiftly and effectively, minimising disruption in the process.
The office love story doesn’t have to turn into an episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show but, if it does, the above guidelines should help you reach a resolve without wheeling out the lie detector.
David is a Human Resources Consultant at Let’s Talk People.
David has been providing HR & employment law advice to business owners and company directors for 8 years. He is a qualified member of The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.