Romance in the workplace is all but inevitable. We all know of employees involved in relationships at work, or perhaps we are in a workplace relationship ourselves. Typically, there are few to no problems (with the exception of "affairs") if the relationship continues. However, when a relationship deteriorates, trouble usually begins.
Complaints of favoritism, claims of sexual harassment, decreased productivity of those involved, decreased morale of co-workers are all outcomes of workplace relationships. When the romance ends, retaliation, stalking or physical violence could arise, especially in the case where the ones involved are married to spouses outside of the workplace.
Dr. Shirley Glass, author of Not "Just Friends" states “The new infidelity is between people who unwittingly form deep, passionate connections before realizing that they´ve crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love. Eighty-two percent of the 210 unfaithful partners I´ve treated have had an affair with someone who was, at first, "just a friend.´” From 1991 to 2000, Glass discovered in her practice that 50 percent of the unfaithful women and about 62 percent of unfaithful men she treated were involved with someone from work.
Men and women who work closely together under stressful conditions can quickly become attracted to one another. They often share interests over coffee or lunch getting to know one another. One researcher calls this new kind of affair the “cup of coffee” syndrome. Men and women begin with safe marriages at home and friendships at work. As they regularly meet for these breaks, relationships develop into deep friendships. Coworkers come to depend on these coffee trysts, and soon they have emotional work friendships and crumbling marriages. Longer work hours also contribute"?¦especially when companies promote "team work", encouraging close working relationships between team members. This makes for a romantically conducive environment.
Tale-tell signs of brewing office romance include frequent meetings at the water-cooler or coffee machine, becoming more familiar with each others’ personal lives, more and more emails, instant messages and text messages becoming increasingly more endearing.
The possibility of discontented outcomes makes stern measures against workplaces relationships seem justified. However, many experts warn that policies implying that workplace romance is a problem are just as imprudent. You cannot forbid romantic relationships between employees, for running the risk of being accused of invasion of privacy.
As an employer, you can implement and enforce policies on dating and family relationships in the workplace to promote uniform treatment of all employees. Have a legal professional review these policies to ensure compliance with federal, state and local laws.
“Love is not enough. It must be the foundation, the cornerstone – but not the complete structure. It is much too pliable, too yielding.” ~ Bette Davis