How to handle office romances

With many of us spending more and more time at the office, it’s no surprise that many working relationships blossom into something a little more intimate.  In fact, research carried out by CareerBuilder.com found that 38% of workers have dated a colleague at some point in their working lives.

Those individuals are in pretty good company as well, as just one power couple that met in the workplace is none other than Barack and Michelle Obama. Back in 1989, the pair met whilst they were spending time working at the same law firm in Chicago.

As an employer though, you’d be right to be a little cautious about what the implications could be for your business. If you suspect that there’s an office romance in the pipeline, you could be concerned about the impact that this could have on your team, or what might happen if things turn sour.

February is the month of love, so it’s a great time to consider some best practice on this subject. Without any further ado, here’s what you need to know:

Accept that these things happen

It would be unreasonable to try to implement any kind of policy that banned romantic relationships between employees. As well, it probably wouldnt act as a deterrent. If anything, youd be simply creating a culture of secrecy and mistrust.

The bottom line here is that these things happen, and as a leader, you have to accept it.

Nip any problems in the bud ASAP

Public displays of affection arent appropriate in the workplace. No one wants to see canoodling by the canteen, or have to navigate their way through a kissing couple just to get to the kettle. Luckily, most couples will know this already, and will often do everything they can to make sure that there are no awkward moments for their colleagues.

If you do feel that boundaries are being crossed though, you need to take action as soon as possible. Have a discreet word with both individuals, explain your worries and remind them of whats acceptable and what isnt.

Consider the team as a whole

Youre probably not in the office all day long, every day of the week. So in many ways, you only get a very limited snapshot of whats going on, and how everyones interacting on a day-to-day basis. This means that you need to be extra vigilant when it comes to monitoring sentiment.

Of course, this is a larger issue surrounding workplace culture, and it covers more than just office romances. Keeping your finger on the pulse and collecting meaningful, insightful feedback from your staff on a regular basis will ensure that youre creating a productive, motivated, and happy workforce – if, of course, youre taking action on your findings.

Don’t take sides if things go wrong

Many employers worry about the potential fallout of office relationships turning sour.  And its essential that youre prepared for the worst-case scenario. Stay impartial, try to exercise a degree of understanding and sympathy, but make sure that you keep overall business objectives and priorities in sight.

Of course, its vital that you can recognise the difference between a break-up and something more sinister. Your policies and procedures on serious matters such as sexual harassment and bullying should be robust, and always implemented.

If youve got these key areas covered, romance at work doesnt have to leave you feeling stressed out and uncertain about what to do for the best. If you feel like you need to ensure that youre prepared for anything that your business might throw at you this year, we can help to make sure that youre ready.  Give us a call to arrange a consultation.

Rachel Wade, Senior HR Consultant, Opt HR Limited, rachelwade@opthr.co.uk024 7627 2908

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