Dealing with workplace romance
Most of us like the idea of someone meeting their ideal mate and falling in love. However, when it happens in the workplace under your supervision, it can be a tad bit trickier for everyone involved. Learning how to manage two people in an office romance wasn’t much of an issue just a few short decades ago. Today, almost 30 percent of employees report being open to a romantic relationship with a coworker, and about 16 percent will even date a direct supervisor. This data makes it more understandable why nearly 22 percent of US married couples report that they met while working together.
The rules of dating in the workplace seem to be changing. However, some workplaces have policies and procedures that address office relationships. These policies must be honored and followed at all times. Here’s a look at a few strategies you can use to manage employees in a romantic relationship and anyone else who may have opinions and feelings about the situation.
Know the Risks and Your Policies
It used to be that most American workforces were made up primarily of men. Today, more women work and even hold positions of leadership in male-dominated workplaces. Combine the more diverse workforce with the fact that you spend more time at work than at home, and you can quickly see why many people find their mates on the job. When you meet someone at work, there is a higher-than-average likelihood that you have at least one thing in common and probably live in the same town or area.
Some workplace policies on dating might forbid intimate relationships between any employees. Other employers only prohibit relationships between management and their subordinates or those staff members who report to the same manager. Regardless of the rules, it’s essential to have them, enforce them, and make sure that all staff are fully aware of the expectations of any policies that exist.
Educate Employees about Sexual Harassment and Assault
Recently, both women and men have come forward to share their experiences with sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. The #MeToo movement began in 2006 to help survivors of sexual violence and is a powerful force that ensures education and advocacy.
Your employees must be aware of what are considered appropriate and inappropriate actions when it comes to workplace romance.
If your policy allows dating and relationships at any level, educate your teammates about what constitutes sexual consent, assault, and harassment. Sexual consent is the necessary communication of agreement to have sex. Consent can be withdrawn at any time and giving it once does not mean that it’s provided at a later date for the same or other sexual activities. It’s also essential to know that sexual consent must be between two adults who aren’t being coerced in any way.
It’s also vital to consider that a more diverse workplace means that the stereotypes of men being the aggressor towards women might not fit what you see at work. Anyone can be a target or victim of sexual harassment or assault, making it critical that you keep an open mind when dealing with these delicate issues. Make sure that your employees are aware of these definitions and the actions they must follow if they feel that they are a target of sexual harassment or assault.
Address Concerns about Relationships Directly
Tensions in the workplace can have adverse effects on everyone. If the relationship is a good one, and your policy allows for it, you may not have any issues. However, if others view the relationship as being less than appropriate or if there are rumors of sexual harassment or assault, others can be affected too.
Those involved may suffer from emotional trauma, physical problems, and depression. Tensions in the workplace can also cause low job satisfaction, damage the overall company culture, and lead to higher than usual turnover rates. If you think any sexual harassment or other negative behavior is happening in your workplace, you need to deal with it quickly and directly. Speak with your human resources department or direct supervisor for advice.
Another strategy you can use is to ramp up employee engagement and retention efforts. Increasing employee engagement can boost morale and put employee’s fears or concerns at ease.
Consider hosting a roundtable conversation about your current policy or plan a few fun workplace activities such as a luncheon or complimentary 15-minute chair massages to help everyone relax and take the focus off of the relationship in question.
Consider a Few Changes
If your policy does allow for office relationships, you may need to consider a few changes. Speak to the two staff members involved in the workplace romance and let them know that you have some concerns about them working so closely together. Suggest a lateral transfer so that they are not in the same department or reporting to the same manager. This can help with overall workplace culture and put everyone’s mind at ease.
Manage Staff, Not Couples
Navigating workplace romance can be challenging. However, it’s important to remember that your job is to manage the staff and overall company goals, not couples or relationships. Remember to address concerns directly and keep your team up-to-date on any policy changes so that they are aware of what is appropriate when it comes to staff relationships.
Written by: Indiana Lee, BOSS Contributor