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Workplace Romances: Distraction or Disaster?

Published Thursday Feb 14, 2019

Workplace Romances: Distraction or Disaster?

Like it or not, workplace romance is a reality most employers face. Although some employers ban office romance, more often, employers establish policies placing certain restrictions and parameters on dating, particularly between those who have reporting relationships, according to a report by XpertHR.

While it’s commonly acknowledged that direct reports shouldn’t consort, the reality is that those romances do occur, even if less frequently since the rise of the #MeToo movement. And half of employees say they have had at least one office romance although a mere 5 percent are likely to share with their HR team that they are 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, or worse. These situations create conflict and sensitivities that extend across the workplace, affecting morale and productivity.

So, 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.

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.

“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 at 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.”

To download a copy of the full whitepaper, visit XpertHR

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