Love is in the air! How to Manage Office Romances

It’s Valentine’s Day! Which means romance is everywhere—even in the workplace. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 43% of HR professionals have reported office romances. Additionally, 40% of workers polled by said they have dated a co-worker.

Office relationships are a necessary part of any thriving business. When they turn romantic, however, these relationships can affect more than just the employees directly involved. How can employers support their employees, while protecing their business, in such situations?

What to Keep in Mind

Amorous office relationships can and do happen. More and more professionals are looking for love in the workplace. When determing how your company will approach such situations, here are a few things to consider:

  • The Impact on Office Morale. While office romances have become more common, there is still a stigma attached to them. Gossip and rumors about employees that may be dating can create a hostile and negative office environment. 
  • Productivity. Stress from an office romance also contributes to lack of focus and decreased productivity.
  • Professionalism. A consistent and positive workplace culture exists when all employees maintain a professional and respectful demeanor with all peers—even one they may be dating—at all times.

Handling Office Romances

A common approach to handling office romances is to create a company policy. A policy that acknowledges and clearly identifies the nature and consequences of an office romance can prevent rumors and anxiety. Additionally, such a policy could also save companies from expensive sexual harassment and discrimination complaints. Here are a few tips for creating a quality employee dating policy:

  • Be inclusive. Strict office policies concerning romance often come across as controlling and disparaging. Employees who feel their personal decisions are of little value to a company will likely keep an intimate relationship with a fellow employee secret. Invite input from employees from drafting your policy.
  • Openness. Ensuring you directly and openly address an amorous office relationship allows all parties to feel their voice is heard and respected. Moreover, it helps prevent sexual harassment charges, which could stem from an office romance gone sour. In 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission settled sexual harassment charges at a costly $52 million.
  • Training. If both managers and employees are frequently trained in issues of workplace romance and sexual harassment, they will have a clear understanding of their place in the company’s culture and their role in contributing to its growth. 

Above all, employers and employees must ensure office romances follow company and legal policy. Such relationships can be positive ones through open, clear, and inclusive communication. If you need more guidance or want to guarantee you have an effective company policy to deal with office romance, check out our diversity training courses and conflict management bundle. You’ll find plenty of courses at OpenSesame to help you handle this complex issue!

Garrett Sauey is a recent graduate of Davidson College, where he pursued a degree in English Language and Literature. He is also the former Copy and Web Editor for The Davidson. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Image Credit: Charles Sporn via Flickr