Raise your hand if you have ever dated someone you worked with. I see a lot of hands waving in cyberspace. You are not alone. I could quote surveys about workplace romance for this entire post. It’s likely that you read about some this week. Most recently 39% of respondents to the January 2008 Spherion Workplace Snapshot admitted to a workplace romance. More employees think workplace romance won’t hurt their career, lots of them turn into marriages and fewer people try to hide the relationship.
The annual reporting of statistics includes comments about the paucity of employer policies covering workplace romance. Do you really need a policy about workplace romance? The arguments in favor of these policies say they cut down on favoritism and reduce the likelihood of complaints of sexual harassment. Some advisors even recommend consensual agreements or “love contracts” that employees sign agreeing that the relationship is consensual and outline what to do if the relationship ends or one party thinks it has turned into sexual harassment.
Raise your hand if you know someone at work who has dated a co-worker and one of them is married, to someone else. Is one of these people really going to sign a love contract? I’m pleased to say that many HR professionals see love contracts as an invasion of privacy. A good policy on sexual harassment that includes strong communication and training is better preventative action.
If it looks like a relationship is resulting in favoritism or other destructive behavior don’t pretend it isn’t happening. Address the issue by reminding the employees about your policies and telling them the consequences if inappropriate actions or behavior continue. You don’t have to have written rules about specific behaviors to talk about professionalism and good management. Summarize the discussion in writing. Take action even handedly, don’t play favorites.
When romance blossoms at work don’t assume that it will cause trouble. The Spherion Snapshot tells us that 22% of office romances result in marriage. With more time at work and changing attitudes this number is likely to increase.
I hope that the only sticky issues you face resulting from workplace romance involve wedding guest lists!