Employee romances may have been taboo a few decades ago, but are commonplace today. See what you can do to make sure the relationship doesn’t impact the rest of the office.
Given how much time employees spend in the office, it isn’t surprising that workplace romances are blossoming. A 2016 survey by CareerBuilder.com revealed that 37 percent of workers have dated a colleague, and 33 percent of those romances resulted in marriage. While this may have dismayed managers 30 years ago, it’s a statistic that more and more organizations have learned to embrace. Not only is office romance inevitable, there can be some fairly beneficial outcomes to both employee and organization when handled well.
Benefit #1: Increased Employee Longevity
Having a spouse, partner, or romantic interest at work can increase retention. Seeing a significant other at the office can provide motivation to get excited about work each day since it’s now become a container for two of any individual’s highest priorities: love and security. And when office romance leads to the altar, employees can experience potentially greater health benefits, perks, and maybe even a double-down in stock options.
Benefit #2: Productivity Boost
We tend to talk about work at home, so when a couple works at the same company, their conversations naturally increase, and there’s simply more time spent brainstorming on projects and problem-solving outside of normal business hours. We also can’t ignore the feeling of euphoria that comes with a new relationship, either. This can result in a boost in morale, energy, and creativity at work.
Benefit #3: Positive Culture
Organizations that enable employees to handle themselves and others with respect and compassion experience higher employee morale, more trust, and deeper connections. And, of course, love is sweet. Organizations can get an instant boost of positivity with coworkers walking on air, spreading the warm fuzzy feeling throughout the office.
These are some examples of what can occur when workplace romance is handled well. However, in the same Careerbuilder.com survey, findings revealed that, surprisingly, more than two out of five employees (45 percent) don’t know whether their company has a dating policy in place.
Given that the basis for any productive, healthy, and long-lasting relationship is communication, this isn’t a good start on the organization’s behalf. With the high frequency of amorous relationships occurring in the office, it’s essential that management avoid confusion, discomfort, and potential lawsuits by setting clear guidelines as to what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. Read on to discover three key communications every organization should be having with its workforce.
Communication #1: Company to Employees
Every organization needs to provide a sexual harassment policy that clearly states how a claim will be handled and the consequences for such behavior. Underscore that the company has a zero-tolerance policy and doesn’t discriminate on the basis of title or tenure.
By the same token, companies need to acknowledge that relationships between colleagues will occur and provide guidelines around what is acceptable and what is not.
For example, relationships between supervisors and direct reports are prohibited and professional behavior is required at all times. If the work environment or colleagues are compromised by unprofessional behavior—complaints of TMI or PDA, for example—it’s critical that management steps in to remind the individuals involved of the organization’s policies.
An organization can land itself in court in a sexual harassment lawsuit if they don’t consider that angle.
Communication #2: Manager to Employee
When a manager spots a budding romance, it’s wise to open the lines of communication sooner rather than later. Take the opportunity to remind the employee about the company policy and introduce scenarios that may be worthy of consideration.
How will he/she handle the situation should the relationship end on less than good terms? How will he/she deal with potential gossip? How will he/she balance work matters and personal issues so as not to damage the office environment? What support would he/she like from the company?
By encouraging thoughtfulness, managers not only prepare their employees for how to handle common issues, they also create high levels of trust by demonstrating support for a successful outcome that is mutually beneficial to all.
Communication #3: Employee to Employee
The last line of communication has to do with how an employee who is involved in a workplace relationship communicates with their fellow employees. Overall, employees should be honest with their colleagues when asked if the rumors are true. If not, tension will mount and needless drama and distraction may occur.
In addition, employees should keep the chatter to a minimum, saving the details for outside of work. No matter where they are and whom they are with, employees should ask themselves if they would want the same information shared about them.
If there is any doubt, keep a lid on it. After all, their romantic interest works within the same company and would likely prefer some privacy.
Finally, employees should feel empowered to only share what they wish. If something is off-limits, be direct by saying, “I would prefer to keep personal matters private.”
Workplace romance is a fact of life in business. The organizations that provide clear and open communication navigate the waters much more successfully than organizations who either say nothing or ban the practice altogether. Hope is not a strategy, nor does it stave off lawsuits. Rather, embracing reality with well-articulated guidelines is a recipe for success.
Halley Bock is the founder and CEO of Life, Incorporated–an organization that fosters mindful connection in all areas of life as the means to experience a wholehearted, fulfilling, and joyful life. More information about her January 2017 release Life, Incorporated: A Practical Guide to Wholehearted Living can be found at www.halleybock.com/lifeincorporated