Like it or not, workplace romance is a reality most employers face. Although some workplaces completely ban office romance, more often, employers establish policies placing certain restrictions and parameters on dating, particularly between those who have reporting relationships, says a new XpertHR report on workplace romance.
While it’s commonly acknowledged that co-workers in a direct line of reporting shouldn’t consort, the reality is that such romances continue to occur, even if less frequently since the rise of #MeToo movement. Surveys reveal that about half of employees have had at least one office romance, but only 5% of workers would willingly tell their HR team if they were in a workplace relationship.
One of the problems with romantic workplace relationships is that they don’t all end well. In fact, some end in disaster, such as cases of stalking, workplace or domestic violence, employees quitting or being reassigned, and more. These situations may create conflict and sensitivities that extend throughout the workplace, impacting morale and productivity. It’s not surprising that business leaders and HR professionals are concerned about the potential negative effects of workplace relationships. HR leaders should think very carefully, and very strategically, about whether to prohibit or discourage romantic relationships at work.
RELATED: Kevin Price, Editor at Large of TTUSA and Host of the Price of Business, interviewed attorney and Price of Business contributor, Hessam Parzivand on this important topic. Listen to that interview in its entirety below.
“From an HR standpoint, workplace relationships have the potential to impact employee morale and productivity, retention, as well as the potential for harassment claims that may arise when an overzealous employee attempts to start a relationship with an uninterested co-worker or when an initially consensual relationship comes to an end,” says Beth Zoller, Legal Editor, XpertHR. “Employers may prefer not to attempt to ban all romantic relationships in the workplace, but rather develop an appropriate strategy, and related policies, documentation and training, to effectively navigate the sensitive issue of workplace romances.”
XpertHR recommends that employers:
- Have a fraternization policy that focuses on relationships in general, rather than simply romantic relationships.
- Address already existing relationships and monitor them closely to ensure that no discriminatory treatment, improper and/or unprofessional behavior or favoritism occurs or interferes with work.
- Maintain a conflicts of interest policy obligating employees to disclose any actual or potential conflict that would adversely affect judgment, objectivity or loyalty to the employer or to work.
- Apply policies consistently.
- Provide employees and supervisors with training on harassment as well as appropriate and inappropriate workplace conduct.
- Communicate regularly.
- Don’t overlook the potential perils of interactions that occur via social media.
- Consider using a love contract documenting that a relationship is consensual.
- Take harassment claims seriously by immediately and fully addressing them.
Photo courtesy of XpertHR.