We spend a massive chunk of our lives at work, so it’s not surprising that many people have enjoyed an office romance at some point or another. Close friendships are often formed when working alongside the same people day in, day out, and this can sometimes blossom into more. In fact, a survey from CareerBuilder.com found that 30% of workplace romances ended in marriage, suggesting that it’s not always just a quick fling – many are in it for the longer term.
When you’re the boss though, it pays to be prepared for these situations just incase they arise. Though many office romances will cause you no problems at all, there’s always the possibility that things could turn sour and you’re left with a crisis on your hands.
First of all, ditch the idea of creating a clause in your employment contracts that bans office relationships outright. They’re questionable when it comes to ethics, and they could lead to your employees feeling like they have to be secretive about their personal lives, which could in turn place stress on their relations with other colleagues, and leave them feeling uncertain about their long term future within your business. At the end of the day, do you really want to penalise your employees for falling in love and adding some extra happiness into their lives?
Your workers should however be encouraged to keep reasonable and healthy boundaries between their professional and personal lives. Public displays of affection in the workplace are not obviously inappropriate, and can cause tensions between staff and lead to people feeling uncomfortable. If this does become an issue, have an informal discussion with the parties involved, and set out your expectations. Be understanding and sensitive towards the situation, but make it clear that work is work, and you have a responsibility to create an inclusive and productive environment for all members of staff.
Of course, if the romantic interest is not mutual, and one of your employees is showing an unwanted interest in another member of staff, this is a whole different kettle of fish. Act on any complaints as quickly as you can, and in line with your existing bullying and harassment policies. These things should be nipped in the bud as quickly as possible, and it’s vital that you have the right policies in place so all your employees and line managers have a roadmap for how to deal with the situation.
With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, office romances could be something that you’re dealing with sooner rather than later. Bookmark this guidance just in case you need it!